Monday, February 27, 2017

Week 51 Report

Before I begin my report, I want to add a photo of the mission home photos on the wall at the Mission Office. President Warner asked me to finish the project for him, and I'm so happy with the way it turned out.

Orientation begins with Elder and Sister Williams. What a wonderful couple – they bring great enthusiasm and lots of talent to the mission. Monday was a full day in the office. Training a new person really makes you realize just how much you have been doing. We worked until about 5:00 and then closed up the office. The other couples went home – we went to Easy Music Store and I bought another ukulele (you just can’t have enough ukulele!). This one is a tenor 8-string. There are 2 strings for each note. The 2 G strings are tuned an octave apart, as are the 2 E strings. The 2 C and A strings are tuned in unison. When holding chords the blend of these notes creates a “chorus” or fuller effect. I played three different brands of 8-string ukulele and decided on a Kala made out of solid acacia wood. The sound is very nice and the price was half that of a Kamaka or Kanilea. Bottom line – I’m excited to start playing.

We caught a ride with Williams over to Bibi’s apartment for FHE. What a sweet evening. The potluck dinner was delicious – as always – and it was wonderful to be in the company of so many good-hearted people. Sister Reeder and I accompanied the opening song, “There is Sunshine in My Soul Today”, on our ukulele. Bibi gave Devon and I each a beautiful ginger flower lei. Boy do they smell good! The short lesson was about memories and how to preserve them. At the end we always gather in a circle, hold hands, and sing “Aloha Oe”. I mostly listened and fought back tears.

Tuesday was another full day of orientation. Sister Williams is taking everything in so well. Devon and Elder Williams spent most of the day moving things out of an apartment they were closing. That was an eye-opener for Elder Williams! I brought a load of laundry to work and used the AP’s washer and dryer to get it done. They live in a little pad next to the office. President was in the office and we got some questions answered and a ton of letters signed.

In the evening Jack and Norine Francis from our Manoa Ward took us out to dinner at a nice Tai restaurant. He is Devon’s mother’s cousin. The food was delicious and we had a wonderful time visiting with them. They gave me a beautiful, red orchid lei.

Wednesday was a full day of orientation at the office. The Williams are catching on well, so that makes our hearts happy. We know things will be left in good hands. We were invited to lunch with Sister Yim. She took us to a wonderful Indian cafe called Govinda's Buffet - all you can eat - food for the soul. It was at a Hare Krsna facility. The food was amazing! There was a steady flow of people coming to the little cafe. Good food and a sweet spirit there. It was truly a treat! Thank you Sister Yim.

Elder and Sister Shutz invited us over for a yummy dinner of taco soup, veggies, and fruit salad. The evening was even more special because Elder Dushku and Elder Vanshaarm joined us. They are sharp elders. We had a great time visiting, laughing, and enjoying a good meal.

Thursday was much the same. The week has been punctuated by goodbye visits from many elders and sisters. That tugs at my heart. Many of them didn’t know we were leaving – we’ve tried to be quiet about it. We sure do enjoy the hugs and well wishes from these wonderful young people. My only regret is not getting more photos with them.

Sister Lybbert and Sister Talbot
Elder Lybbert (no relation to Sister Lybbert) and Elder Hardy

Elder and Sister Reeder treated us to a delicious dinner of stew, green salad, and French bread. Sister Larkin, the wife of the Marshall Island Mission President joined us. She came to Hawaii for medical treatment. She is doing well and will be returning back to the mission next week. It was another wonderful evening. We really appreciate the kindness of our mission office friends these last few days. We have developed friendships that I hope will continue long past our mission days. After dinner we went home and packed our bags and then fell into bed.

Friday – final day! We showered, loaded all our bags into the mission truck, and checked out of the hotel. Then we went to the office. It was a shock to look on IMOS and see our names listed as “Released.” Ouch!!!! We kept busy all day with final orientation. In the evening all four office couples walked to the bus stop and rode to Waikiki where we met President and Sister Bekker for dinner at Duke’s. There was a little bit of a panic when we were told there was 1 ½ hour wait. Fortunately we were able to get seating on the patio where we enjoyed a wonderful dinner while we watched the sun set over the ocean. What a wonderful way to end our time in Hawaii. We said some very heartfelt goodbyes and managed to keep the tears at bay. I sure hope we get to spend time with these wonderful people again.

Last view of Wakiki and Diamond Head
Sunset and sail boats. Beautiful view from our table at Duke's.
Oh, how I will miss these wonderful people! R to L: Elder and sister Williams, Elder and Sister Tufts, Elder and Sister Reeder, President and Sister Bekker, Sister and Elder Shurts. I love you all!!!

We caught the bus back to the mission office, had one more round of goodbyes, and then Elder and Sister Williams drove us to the airport. We were relieved that all our bags were under the weight limit – thanks to some creative shuffling before we left the hotel. We had borrowed Sister Reeder’s scale so we could check the weight before we left the hotel. The plane was completely full. We were so glad we decided to upgrade to the bulkhead seats. We were also very relieved that they let us carry on all three ukulele. We left on time and with a good tail wind arrived about 40 minutes ahead of time. What a wonderful surprise to see our dear friends, Gwen and David Dodge waiting to greet us at the very early hour of 6:30 am. We had no idea they would be there. Emily and Marianne were also there to pick us up and take us to our new home. Lori, Eric, and Emily had worked so hard to have everything ready for us. The house looked great! Now we have a big job ahead of us to unpack all the boxes.

We went to the Stake Center to be released at 9:30 am. The stake president couldn’t be there so we were released by one of his counselors. It was a sweet moment, but just like that it was over. We looked at each other and said, well, what should we do? So we went home, unpacked a box or two and took a nap.

In the evening we met at Lori’s ward for a wonderful family party. Everyone living here in Utah came – what a treat – but we sure missed our California family! We had a delicious meal of Hawaiian haystacks, salad, rolls, and a variety of yummy desserts. DELICIOUS! Devon and I gave a kukui nut lei to everyone and shared some thoughts about our mission and about Aloha. Then the tables and chairs were put away and a rousing game of dodge ball began. This is getting to be a fun tradition. The kids love it! How wonderful it was for us to be back with our family and to see them enjoying being together. My favorite things! We were exhausted by the time we got home. The red-eye flight had caught up with us.

Sunday was glorious! We went to sacrament meeting at our Highland 16th ward, then went the Emily’s sacrament meeting to hear her give a talk – two great meetings. We had a wonderful dinner at Gwen and David Dodge’s home – hamburgers, grilled pineapple, tomato-avocado-cucumber salad, and pie (coconut cream and key lime) for dessert…so yummy. It really is good to be home. Once we are rested and unpacked things should settle into a routine.

In our ward’s sacrament meeting the choir sang a beautiful hymn. I want to share the words of the verses, as they were so meaningful to me:

Long ago, within a garden,
Adam tasted of a tree;
Death would be our awful burden;
Only One could set us free.

Jesus came to win a pardon
For us in Gethsemane,
Humbly suff’ring in a garden,
Crucified on Calvary.

Death began within a garden,
Fruit of a forbidden tree.
Life sprang from another garden;
Hope came from another tree.

Come to Christ and be forgiven;
Taste the fruit of Father’s tree,
Sweetest fruit of all His garden,
Dwell with Him eternally.
By Devan Jensen

We went on a mission because of our testimony in our Savior and a desire to serve Him by serving his children. It was hard – hard to leave our home and family – the work was hard. But, we would do it again in a heartbeat. Our testimonies are even stronger. Our relationship is stronger. Our circle of friends wider. Our hearts fuller. In the end, we are the ones who were blessed the most.

This chapter ends – a new one begins. We are looking forward to the future and new ways to serve. Thank you, thank you, thank you to all our family and friends. Your love and support means so much. We love you. We hope to spend more time with you, and find new friends. We sign off the only way we know how…Aloha, and may God be with us all.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Week 50 Report

Monday – the beginning of another transfer week. The full force of activities won’t hit until later. The morning was busy with emails and regular mail. We had a ton of packages and letters delivered. I suppose the fact that tomorrow is Valentine’s Day may have something to do with it. Compounding the sheer volume of mail was the fact that forwarding is not a simple procedure this week. We usually use an IMOS program that pulls up the missionaries’ addresses and we can easily make labels. Well, the program won’t be updated with the new transfers until the end of the week. So we have to pull out all the mail going to missionaries being transferred and type labels one by one. It’s a slow process. Thankfully tomorrow the Zone Leaders will be in the office and can take a lot of the mail directly back to the missionaries. After tomorrow it will have to go through the USPS as usual.

Devon left for his MRI at 2:00 and I had a PT appointment at 3:45. After that we went to Sam’s Club to pick up the pizza for the arriving missionaries’ dinner at the office. They arrived about 5:30 – tired, but with bright eyes and lots of enthusiasm. We have 9 new sisters and 2 new elders. Most of the sisters are going to the Laie Temple Visitor’s Center. They ate dinner, listened to office and AP orientation, and some thoughts from President Bekker. Then we took their solo photo and one with President and Sister Bekker.  Around 8:00 pm they left for the mission home and some much needed sleep. It was a very long day for all of us. We arrived at 8:00 am and left about 8:30 pm. Bed was a welcome sight for us as well.

Tuesday was busy all day. We had tons of missionaries come to the office to pick up mail and to say hello. They were here for the transfer meeting where they meet their new companions. The word is out that we are leaving soon, so with sad faces they came by to say goodbye. It’s so hard but I feel grateful for the love and friendship from these fine young people. We love them like our grandchildren and visa versa.

I emailed photos of the new missionaries to their parents and spent a lot of time on the Come and Go Report. I do it every week, but the week of transfers I have to delete whole columns, add new ones, and move everyone around. The young elders and sisters usually all come on scheduled days, but the senior missionaries come whenever throughout the month. It takes time to keep it straight. I also have a couple of seniors who want exceptions to their departing plans. It takes time to explain their options, which usually aren't what they had in mind. Thankfully they usually adjust.

Devon left the office early to check out a few new apartments. I stayed till 5:00. When Devon came home around 7:00 we had dinner, watched a little TV and I enjoyed playing my ukulele for about 45 minutes. I haven’t played lately and I sure missed it.

Wednesday was business as usual…well almost usual. I spent most of the morning updating the phone directory and a few other items that I hope will help my replacement. Devon was also very busy with paper work in the office. At lunchtime we left to pick up a CD of his recent MRI. The doctor hasn’t called us with the results yet – hopefully tomorrow. We’ll take the CD with us when we see a neurologist in Utah. We decided to pick up lunch in the hospital cafeteria. It was great and really cheap. We brought it back to the office to eat. We also stopped at Walgreens to pick up the photos of the new missionaries. During the afternoon I made the transfer board cards for the 11 new junior missionaries and 3 couples that recently arrived. We left for home ON TIME and had a restful evening at our pad.

Friday – what a beautiful day: crystal clear blue skies reflecting on the ocean making it also a beautiful blue color. The air was warm, but not too hot, and a slight breeze was blowing. It was a perfect Hawaiian day. Remind me…why am I leaving? 

The day went well in the office. I wrapped up a few more things. I’m coming to the conclusion it will never be completely wrapped up. Every day there are new circumstances and things to work on. But, for the most part my work is up to date and ready to hand over to Sister Williams. I had a nice visit with my physical therapist, Jennifer. She has been a great help and I can tell I am improving – especially if I remember to do my exercises. Devon’s jaw pain is no better – maybe worse. We finally heard from his doctor. The MRI was normal. That's good news - no tumors or other issues. So we will  get his records faxed to a neurologist in Utah and try to get an appointment for soon after we get home. In the meantime, he soldiers through each day.

In the evening we started packing. Our suitcases will be full, but I think we can get everything in and stay under the weight limit. It’s a good thing we shipped several boxes home.

Saturday – our last P-Day. Our first stop was the Swap Meet. I needed to exchange a dress I bought last week for a different size, and pick up some fabric charm packs for my daughter-in-law’s friend. I also bought couple of Hawaiian appliqué pillow covers. Devon was thrilled that we were in and out rather quickly. Then we pointed the car in the direction of Laie. Along the way we stopped to see the Valley of the Temples. It is a beautiful cemetery. We called it the Forest Lawn of O’ahu. It was truly breathtaking!

Up on one hill was a row of these family mausoleums. 
There were designated burial areas for various groups. This one was really interesting.

At the end of the cemetery was this beautiful Buddhist Temple, surrounded by a large koi pond.
Buddha shrine inside the temple
So many large koi in the pond. They were used to being fed by the tourists, so they all congregated by the bridge waiting for food to be thrown in the water.
One pond was full of bull frogs serenading us with their deep pitched croak.
View standing in front of the Buddhist temple.

Next stop was the Polynesian Cultural Center. We met a Highland Ward member and her family there. We get a 50% discount on tickets, so we try to help our friends when they come to the PCC. It was great seeing them.

We met Cecily Nelson, a friend Devon when to high school with in Taber. She treated us to lunch at the buffet. It was delicious, but better still was her sweet company. We enjoyed visiting and sharing our mission experiences. She has about 5 months left and then will return to her home in Utah. It’s been a real treat to meet her and spend time with her now and then. We made one last stop at the Mission Settlement and the Ukulele Experience Store – my two favorite places at the PCC - where we said good buy to some sweet mission friends. Next stop was to pick up a couple of bicycles from some elders that have been assigned a car. Other missionaries need the bicycles.

Our last stop was at Brother and Sister Yim’s beautiful new home in Laie. Oh how we love this wonderful couple. They invited all the senior missionaries from our FHE group to a BBQ. It was wonderful being together one last time. A special treat was when President and Sister Bekker and Elder and Sister Zwick came by for a few minutes.

Elder and Sister Zwick shared some thoughts and their testimonies – it was wonderful! Then we ate till we were stuffed: hot dogs, hamburgers, macaroni salad, fruit salad, chips, root beer floats, apple pie, and a yummy gluten-free cheesecake. Last, but not least Sister Yim lead us in a fun game and we sang a couple of songs.

Sister Yim brought out her uke and I accompanied (as best I could). Oh how I love these wonderful people…and oh how I’m going to miss them. They are truly the cream of the crop! I sure hope our paths cross again.

Devon and Elder Williams drove home together in the mission truck so they could drop off the bicycles to the other missionaries. Sister Williams and I drove home together in the little Cruz. It was wonderful to have time to visit and talk about office things. They both are perfect replacements. They are excited about the assignment, very capable, and willing to serve.

Sunday was a wonderful Sacrament Meeting. The talks were about callings. I don’t think I’ve ever heard better youth talks, and the two adults also gave amazing talks. The youth did the musical item and it was amazing! Sunday School and Relief Society also were so good. I think our upcoming departure on Friday caught the ward by surprise. The bishop thought we would be here another Sunday. So we missed having Aloha Oe sung to us, but that was just fine with me. I couldn’t have stood there without crying my eyes out.

We came home, fixed a simple dinner in our little kitchenette and had short naps. We ended our last Sunday with a walk and watched a little TV. I talked with Barbara earlier in the day and was very relieved that Rodney’s surgery for his fractured femur went well. Devon called his sister, Gwen, and had a nice visit. It’s hard to be away when our loved ones are having health issues. We will keep them in our prayers, and hope our next phone calls will have good news.

What a wonderful week it's been! We feel so much love from the wonderful people here and our wonderful family and friends at home. Our hearts are so torn. You all have blessed our lives in more ways than you can imagine and we are eternally grateful. Now to get through the last week and the heartbreak of leaving this wonderful place.

This tree is at the PCC. It is covered with the Sandpaper Vine. The leaves feel like sandpaper and it has clusters of lilac colored flowers that make it look very much like a lilac bush.

I love the beautiful flowers of Hawaii!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Week 49 Report

Monday morning started cool and cloudy. By 11:00 am it was pouring rain. The heaviest rain I’ve seen since we’ve been in Hawaii. It kept up for several hours filling the culvert between our office building and the tabernacle. It was amazing. I’m grateful it didn’t start until after we had finished our morning pad checks. We did three pads – all pretty good. At noon we served lunch for Missionary Leadership Conference. We had BBQ pork on buns, kale salad, pineapple, clementines, chips, and cookies – all from Costco. We sure love Costco. We both worked all day in the office. After work we ran to WalMart to pick up a prescription and a couple of necessities, Pictures Plus to pick up a print the office had ordered, and Office Depot to pick up the printed mission newsletter and a few things we needed for the office. When we finished our errands it was 7:00. We were both exhausted so we stopped at Panda Express for dinner. After dinner I had an hour-long phone conversation with a good friend and then went to bed.

Tuesday morning we did our last two pad checks. The elders did a good job cleaning their pads, but the sisters always win – hands down! I’m sure going to miss these wonderful young people. We returned to the office in time for morning devotional and then spent the rest of the day working on usual things. I had three new missionary recommendations, so I made their files. I also updated the weekly Come and Go Report and emailed that. Then I worked on the photos of the previous mission homes. I hope to have them ready to hang sometime this week. At 3:15 we left for my follow-up appointment with Dr. Wang. My sciatic pain is doing better. Devon’s jaw pain seems to have had no improvement, but he does get relief with the Gabapentin and Tylenol he takes. After the doctor appointment we drove to WalMart for a couple of items we forgot yesterday, and to Super Cuts for haircuts. We were so disappointed to learn that Vicki, the lady who has cut our hair the whole time we’ve been here, had taken a leave of absence. I was looking forward to saying goodbye to her and thanking her for her friendship. We had haircuts by a couple of other girls, and I think they both did a good job. After dinner I started packing flat rate boxes to ship home – 4 ready to go so far. Hopefully we won’t need to send many more.

Wednesday we arrived early at the office. We usually arrive at 8:30. The Reeders usually arrive at 8:00 but they had mission errands to run, so we went in early to open the office and phone line. It was a pretty routine day. Routine is still busy with all the little things that come up. President Bekker was here most of the day working on transfers for next week with the AP’s. I hope to take a peek at the transfer board tomorrow and see who is being transferred. I always miss the ones that leave, but then they are always replaced with other great missionaires. I had my CT scan today. On the way home from the exam I had a call from wonderful Dr. Wang telling me that everything is stable. There’s nothing new growing, and the things they are watching are stable or smaller. GREAT NEWS!!! It means my sciatic pain is just that – sciatic pain. No one ever died from sciatic pain. So we’ll continue with physical therapy. Devon is still suffering with off and on horrible jaw pain. He will have an MRI on Monday. If that is negative (as the ENT doctor expects it to be) we will proceed with the plan to consult with a neurologist when we get home. Until then we try to keep the pain under control with Gabapentin, Tylenol and Advil.

The annual mission audit was today and we passed with flying colors. After much worry about having everything in order, it turns out it was no big deal. I think Elder Shurtz, our new financial secretary, is glad it’s over.

Thursday was another nice day in the office for both of us. The weather is turning a little cooler as a storm is expected in a couple of days. After office ours we ran a couple of errands (Costco and WalMart) and then had a quiet night at home.

Friday was also a good day in the office. I had some senior travel to work on, a small project for President Bekker, and the rest of my day was spent helping the AP’s get ready for transfers next week and making handouts. I want to leave things in good shape for my replacement, so I’m stocking up on handouts. A month or so ago I finished updating the secretary instruction book, but today I made three changes to the instructions. It just goes to show that things are always evolving. I’m also updating the telephone directory. Months ago I consolidated three different directories into one. But now there are a couple of updates due to people being replaced and a few other phone contacts the office staff wanted added to the directory. Looks like this, too, will always be in constant change.

Elder and Sister Reeder, Elder and Sister Tufts, Sister and Elder Shurtz

In the evening we went to dinner with the office staff at the Mexico Cantina at the Ward Shopping Center. It was fun and the food was good. On the way home we stopped at Office Depot to pick up a couple of things for the office. We’re still waiting for the storm and it looks like it should arrive by tomorrow.

Just as we were going to bed we noticed that the freezer drawer was not shut tightly. I don’t know how long it had been that way, but almost everything was defrosted. We decided to look at it as a blessing. We were going to have to sort through and throw out stuff before we leave. We just did it sooner than we had planned.

Saturday morning we woke up to the expected storm. It was not the best timing for us. We were booked on our repeat whale watching cruise and had lots of errands to run. The cruise went on as planned and, yes, we did see whales this time – a  group of humpbacks with their young calves. It rained the whole time but the deck was covered and had clear plastic panels that kept us dry. The sea was rougher than our first cruise a few weeks ago.

View of Diamond Head from the ship looking through the plastic panels. Can you tell how choppy the water was?

At the beginning of the cruise they passed out ginger pills to try to prevent seasickness. Many people took the pills. I only saw one little boy that got sick and up-chucked buckets on the deck. Poor little guy! Devon took the ginger. He did well, but by the end was ready to get off the boat.

By the time we got home the full force of the storm had hit and it was raining buckets. We were getting all kind of storm and flash flood alerts. It seemed like a good time to take a nap, so I did. By 5:00 it was over and patches of blue skies were back.

Diamond Head is usually clearly visible from our balcony, but not on this cloudy, rainy day.

In the evening we went to a missionary dinner put on by the McCully Ward. It was to honor missionaries – those serving here and three from their ward who are leaving shortly for their missions. One young elder is going to Long Beach California Mission Spanish speaking. One senior sister is going to New York to work in the temple. Another senior sister is going to Salt Lake City to work at the Family History Center. The dinner was lovely. Afterward we had an activity where we were given a paper bag full of various items and told to make something from the Book of Mormon. 

This is our creation. It’s either a temple with people going to it, or King Benjamin preaching to the people (depending on who you ask).

Cute Elder Dushku and Elder Johnson. Elder Johnson is being transferred out of our area next week. I'm really going to miss him. 

Sunday was lovely, but busy. I went to choir practice, which is always held right before sacrament meeting. I played the organ and the choir sang in Sacrament Meeting. Sister Francis was down with a bad cold so she asked me to play for Relief Society. It was a really good lesson that involved singing 6 different hymns. I was asked to share a “missionary moment” before the lesson. After church we enjoyed FaceTime with Brad, Daryn, David and their kids. It’s always great to have those moments with our family. In the evening our two cute Manoa Ward missionaries came over for dinner at 6:00 and stayed until 8:00. We had good conversation and a good gospel study about justice and mercy. They are really great missionaries! 

Elder Petersen and Elder Ashby - our dinner guests. Elder Ashby is being transferred to Kaneohe. Another great missionary I'm going to miss.

We ended our day by packing three more boxes to be shipped home. I think we are going to have lots of room in our suitcases.

It has been another good week, but I am amazed at how fast it went. The word is out that we are leaving soon and the sad faces are abundant. It warms my heart to feel so much love. We have been so blessed. Truth be told, I am ready to be home with my family, but my heart aches at having to say good bye to these wonderful people.