Sunday, March 25, 2018

Week 7

We began our week at the USO and we busied ourselves with odd jobs. Around noon a group from the ADP Company came with a large box of food donations. We displayed them in the foyer area and took some pictures. The food will eventually be sent to the middle east and Pam and I were asked to be in the pictures because we had shirts on with the USO logo (also our missionary badges). Charley Tramazzo, who handles finances, asked me to type a brochure for him. They needed to re-publish an existing brochure and needed to make a few changes but didn't have the original source, so I typed it up for him. Charley also told us that the restaurant Freddy's was making a sizable donation and we couldn't believe that Freddy's was on the east coast. We went there for a late lunch and it was very good. definitely reminded us of home.

On Tuesday we did a little housework and some shopping. We also made several calls to military families in the Arlington and Fort Caroline wards to see if we could make some visits. We confirmed one visit and hoped others would return our calls. In this day of instant gratification we have the ability to be in constant contact with each other, but finding someone home, or at least who will pick up their phone or answer a text is next to impossible. Pam baked a cake and cookies for dinner and to give to our missionaries and also for visits. In the evening we went to the Fontoura family, a military family in the Fort Caroline Ward. Ricardo and Kylie were a young couple from Florida and Ricardo was a dentist and currently in the Army Reserve. They gave us some names of other military families in the ward and we learned they were leaving for Yakima, Washington in the summer so Ricardo could do some specialty training in his field of medicine (Pediatric Dentistry). They were a wonderful family.

Wednesday morning we were back in the USO. A construction crew were there working on two projects: divide the nursery area into two rooms by constructing a wall with a connecting double door. And dividing the back room from the office into two rooms to create another meeting room. Pam and I spent most of our morning in the office and doing odd jobs to clean things up and put things away. In the afternoon we changed into missionary clothes and then a set of sisters, Sister's Redford and Poulsen, serving in the Arlington ward came to have dinner with us. They actually live in our housing complex. Sister Redford was from West Point, Utah and attended a year at Weber State and a year at UVU before coming on her mission. Sister Poulsen is from Temecula, California and knew the street where Ric and Kathy lived, but didn’t know them. They are both great missionaries and work well together. Following the meal, we had a short devotional with them. 

Thursday morning Pam got her hair cut and was very pleased with the cut. Following lunch, we went to a doctor's appointment at a nearby University of Florida Health Care Clinic. We turned in paperwork and waited a few minutes and then a nurse took our vitals and placed us in a room to await Doctor Susan Hoffman. What an interesting lady she was. Her voice sounded like she had smoked all her life, but when we walked out we were confident she had our medical health high on her priority list. She discussed everything in great detail and mapped out a plan of action. We will return for blood work and an update on all of our tests and then schedule what she called a “Wellness Check” which I guess is an annual physical to establish a “baseline.” They did an INR test for me and didn’t draw blood, but pricked my finger and put the drop of blood on a little strip and read it on a hand-held device and I was 2.0 in about 5 secs. We also got our meds taken care of and when the existing prescriptions run out she will take over with a phone call. In the evening we had Elder's Blanchard and Birch Elder’s for dinner. We had a nice visit with them and a short devotional afterwards. 

Friday we were in the USO about 10:20 am and spent the morning and early afternoon sorting bins of donated items, in particular the USO at the airport wanted some tooth brushes, shampoo and soap. But when that was accomplished we continued sorting the dozens of bins Joyce had in the wall cabinets. When Cheryl arrived to begin preparations for next Monday's "No Dough" dinner, Pam helped her. After the sorting job completed I spent time in the office sorting through boxes and boxes of file cabinet folders and created a box to store newspaper clippings by year. At 2:00 pm Pam and I left with the three boxes of items for the Airport USO and delivered them. I had flown out of the airport several times, but it had certainly changed but seemed very user friendly. The USO agent met us at curbside which was nice. We then had a late lunch at a Panera’s in the River City Marketplace and then came home. We visited with the Alexander’s at their home and spent an hour getting to know them and learn where they were going in their lives. Wes was a convert of less than 3 years and is working to become an Elder. They are also attending a Temple Preparation Class. 

Saturday was a very quiet day for us. I made a lot of phone calls with the goal of meeting several military families in the Fort Caroline Ward. I made contact with one family for sure and hoped for return calls from 3 others. Following lunch we drove to the Naval Station and found the location of a family and knocked on the door, but no answer. The name on the mail box was something different so I think maybe the wife had moved. The family name was Espinosa and I knew he was on deployment, but so far haven't made any contact with his wife. Will keep trying. 

Our week ended on Sunday and we drove to the Naval Station to pick up Alexis Connelly. Well she didn't answer her phone nor a knock on her room door. So we didn't know what to think. Fortunately,  I got a text from her later in the day and she was medicated for a migraine headache and hadn't heard any alarm, phone or knock. We will try again next week. Instead of going to the Jacksonville Beach Ward we returned to the Fort Caroline Ward. The block was very good with wonderful talks in sacrament meeting and interesting and spiritual lessons in the 2nd and 3rd hours. Actually it was almost like being home. Strange how the church is the same wherever you go. After the block we met with Keith Foster and his wife Julie. He is a scoutmaster and she a seminary teacher. We had a nice visit with them and told them what we needed from them. Keith is a prominent CDR on the base and has over 400 enlisted men working for him, so he knows a few hidden members and also can give me a head’s up on deploying ships. We left the chapel and came home for a couple of hours and then went to Sister Nuttall’s for dinner. She was the former relief society president in the Arlington Ward and her family were moving to Texas. Elder’s Blanchard and Birch came also and a friend from the Arlington ward. Wes and Tara Alexander were also there and brought lettuce and vegetables out of Wes' garden for a salad and Tara had made cupcakes. We had a very nice evening. Sister Nuttall is a wonderful, faithful woman and what a strength to the ward. While we were eating Elders Masino and Stuart came to get something from Elder Blanchard. They are the assistants and Sister Nuttall was very happy to see them. It was a great conclusion to our week.

Sorry for the lack of photos this week. Will try to do better. 

 Flowers in our front yard
The USO donation

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Week 6

The week started with a very busy day at the USO. We arrived at 10:00 am and I spent the morning in the office checking people in and handling phone calls while Pam worked in the kitchen with other volunteers preparing the salad for tonights "No Dough" dinner. A bi-weekly free dinner for active duty military and families. By 12:30 pm we were finished with the prep work so Pam and I left and did a little shopping and then returned to our home for a couple of hours. We returned to the USO for the dinner by 5:45 pm. Northrup-Grumman volunteers were there in great numbers and manned all the food lines. I worked in the office checking in patrons and a Petty Officer Mitchell helped me. For the next two hours we checked in about 300 patrons for dinner and the place was hopping. Cheryl, one of the employees had cooked the main dish-- Ziti pasta and French Bread. A salad bar and dessert filled out the dinner offerings. Lots and lots of families came and there were also two ladies handing out children's books and candy to the children. All in all, it was well organized. Dinner ended at 7:00 pm so Pam and I got a bite to eat and it was very good. Joyce, the manager, wanted to send a pan of pasta to the gate guards and asked Pam and I if we would deliver it and we did. They seemed happy to have it along with a case of drinks. We were tired and anxious for bed. 

On Tuesday we attended our first Zone Conference. It was held at the Jacksonville East Stake Center and as we approached the chapel we were amazed that it was the same plan as the Monroe Stake Center. At 8:00 am Pam and I found seats in the chapel and were followed by Elders and Sisters from the Kingland (GA), Lake City, Jax East and Mandarin Zones--about 100 missionaries. Sister Meyers, from our district, played prelude music for a half an hour and then President & Sister Lee and Elder Lynn G. and Sister Robbins entered the chapel and moved to the front and looked over the missionaries. The first item on the program was having each missionary come forward and greet Elder & Sister Robbins and President & Sister Lee. That’s a format I’ve seen several general authorities do during the past few years. When done they took their seats on the podium and Elder Stuart (AP) conducted and announced the entire program and then we began. Following an opening hymn and prayer, the missionaries had formed a choir and sang the number “One by One,” written by Elder Bednar. It was very well done and was accompanied by a flute, 3 violins, piano and an elder sang a solo part. 

The first speaker was Sister Lee and she talked about how to inspire investigators to keep their commitments. She discussed the 3 major commitments—Pray, read the Book of Mormon and attend church. Following Sister Lee we heard from President Lee and he emphasized the teaching of Elder Robbins yesterday in the mission MLC meeting regarding “Our greatest gift from Heavenly Father is the Holy Ghost.” He taught from the scriptures, especially 2nd Nephi chapters 31, 32 and 33 concerning the power and influence of the Holy Ghost. He ended the segment by saying “when we feel guided by the Holy Ghost, we will have the passion to convey the message to our investigators.” 

He concluded his talk by taking a few minutes and discussing the referral program. The mission is a test mission for this new program and has been receiving a flood of referrals that are generated by targeted ads produced by the church and aired via Google. There has been a collaboration between media missionaries in Salt Lake and the missionaries in the field.

 Next, we heard from Sister Robbins and she told a little about their family and Elder Robbin's service in the church and then talked about the Attribute of Hope. She used the experiences of the Prophet Joseph and Emma and their life of endless hardships and how Hope helped them weather the storms of life. After an intermediate hymn the concluding 90 minutes was taken by Elder Lynn G. Robbins of the Presidency of the Seventy. He complimented the mission and then asked pointed questions of the missionaries on what they liked about President and Sister Lee. He got wonderful answers which highlighted the love and devotion the missionaries had for their President and wife. He then reviewed each of the talks by Sister Lee, Sister Robbins and President Lee. He taught in the Savior’s Way and involved the missionaries extensively in the dialogue. Specifically, he concluded the section on Sister Lee’s talk by emphasizing the need to first connect and then you can teach and gave several examples. On President Lee’s talk he emphasized the relationship between the Light of Christ, the Holy Ghost and the Gift of the Holy Ghost. The difference being the intensity of the light received. He quoted scriptures and gave examples of what he was teaching. He quoted Mosiah 18:10 “…he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you,” implying receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost is a larger portion or more intense portion of the Holy Ghost which was manifest upon a person by the Holy Ghost or the Light of Christ as they were investigating. He also taught “The Light of Christ gives vision, but the Holy Ghost brightens that vision.” He next did a cursory overview of a talk the missionaries studied in preparation for zone conference. It was Elder Robbin;s talk from a BYU Devotion, titled “Be 100 Percent Responsible” given in August of 2017. He spent about 10 minutes going through some of the principles of agency with regard to responsibility and used questions and answers from the missionaries to expand the topic.

After a short break we spent the last hour with Elder Robbins asking the missionaries what they had learned about Repentance and what they had learned about Revelation. He went through each topic by asking inspired questions and letting the missionaries respond and then make comments. It was very effective and inspirational. I was very impressed with the quality and depth of the answers from the missionaries. Following his closing testimony, we had a closing hymn and prayer and then adjourned to the cultural hall for lunch. 

We spent the next hour eating and visiting with many missionaries and it was fun to watch the interplay between the missionaries and their President. Sister Lee took pictures all over the place and they go into the mission blog I’m sure. After the goodbyes were said and hugs and handshakes were finished, we left and made our way home. It had been a great day. It was nice to visit with other couple missionaries and learn how they were doing and what they were doing and to find their days were not jammed packed with missionary experiences. We found their days were much like ours—a little here and a little there. 

Wednesday we spent at the USO and the place was pretty quiet. We ran the office this morning as Joyce was putting together things to take to a presentation on base tomorrow. She was like a bull in a china shop, not sure what she was doing and where she was going. A friend who was also a volunteer came about 11:00 am to go with her to set up their displays but they didn’t get out of the office until 12:30 pm. Pam and I answered the phones and checked in quite a few people to have their taxes done or to use the computer. When Joyce returned she said they needed another volunteer to help with the annual USO golf tournament at NAS Jacksonville on Friday, so Pam and I said we would be happy to participate. In the evening we had Elder Lamb and Roy from our district come for dinner and it was nice to have them in our home. Pam fixed a nice meal and we ate and visited and learned a lot about the Elder’s homes, families, and talked quite about yesterday’s Zone Conference. 

Thursday was an eventful day. As I put the key in the van to start the engine, All I got was a click. it was 39 degrees this morning and I think the battery finally died. After all the trouble shooting I could think of I called a company called "Road Angels" and a man came 30 minutes later and got us going. We left the car running as he filled out the paperwork and as he was leaving he suggested I shut off the van and try it again. Again a click. She he got me going again and said "don't shut off the van." We drove directly to a local Wal-Mart and had a new battery installed. I shouldn't complain as that was the original batter and had lasted 8 years. The plan for the day was to go to NAS Jacksonville and locate the golf course. We took the I-295 belt loop and went south across the St. John’s river and there was NAS Nax on the right. We took the appropriate exit and drove along familiar territory to the Yorktown Gate and entered the base. Boy was it different. New P-8’s were all along the flight line to the left with new hangars for the VP squadrons and VP-30. A new aircraft display on the right with about a dozen vintage aircraft available for perusal. We located the golf course clubhouse and then drove around the base to see all the new buildings. So much nicer than I remembered from the last time I was there in 1986. We stopped at the Heritage Park on the way off the base and walked around all the vintage aircraft, mostly from my period of service. It was hard to realize 31 years had passed since I was at NAS JAX and 50 years since I began my Navy service, so it was no wonder everything, including the aircraft had changed. 

Friday morning we arrived at the Golf Course at 8:30 am and checked in with Jim Bury, the Manager of the USO at the Jacksonville Airport. He was in charge of this event. He briefed all the volunteers and at 9:45 am we were taken out to a par 3 hole where we would be stationed for the tournament. It was a 4-man team scramble and I estimated they had about 30 teams participating. Right at 10:00 am the tournament commenced and for the next 3 hours we watched teams come through our hole. Ours was unique in that they had two flags on opposite ends of the green. When the teams came to the green I showed them two cards to choose from. One was an Ace and the other a "2" card and that determined which pin they putted to. It was called an "Acey-Ducey" hole. Around our hole was a beautiful area with wetlands, trees and yes, Alligators. We were told there were alligators on the course, but they wouldn’t bother us. One was sunning himself by a pond and Pam went to another pond and saw a much larger one.  It made you look really close when you walked around. At 3:00 pm the tournament ended and we returned to the clubhouse and loaded our van with folding chairs to return to the Mayport USO and then came home. 

Saturday we spent doing housework and a little shopping for groceries for next week. We had an appearance of our first big "bug" in the house, so bought some spray and liberally sprayed the doorway, windows, and plumbing pipes under the sinks. This morning, Sunday, we went to the Arlington Ward nearby and had a great morning and got a few names and met several military families and made appointments to visit. So all in all the work is going well and we love it here in Florida and it's beginning to warm up a little. 
 New P-8's
 Golf Course
 Golf Course
 Sign at the Golf Course
Our friendly Alligator about 9 feet long
 President & Sister Lee & Elder & Sister Robbins
 Missionaries in our Zone
 Senior missionaries
Whole group at lunch

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Week 5

We began this week at the USO setting up a schedule for working there. We both completed their application process and decided to work Monday, Wednesday and Friday for 2-4 hours each day. They seemed very happy to have us. Elder and Sister Railes, our predecessors in Military Relations worked there and they were liked a lot. We did a little shopping and then Pam began fixing a dinner for our local Elders and I found a barber shop and got my hair cut. We had Elder Blanchard and Elder Plumb (from the Roxborough Ward in Denver) for dinner and enjoyed having them with us. Elder Plumb was getting transferred the next day to an areas south of and it was nice to see him again. 

Tuesday we drove to the Mission Office to discuss our membership status with the office staff. We are trying to get access to LDS Tools for the local wards and stakes, but needed to have our membership records "associated" with the mission. it took a while but after a few days it happened and now we had full access to membership records of 5 stakes in the mission for addresses and phone numbers. That is a huge blessing. From the mission office we drove to the Naval Station and checked in with the clinic to see if we could go there for medical care and especially for my protime testing and medication renewals. Well the answer was no! We could get meds at the pharmacy, but no service because of our retired status and being on Medicare and Tricare for Life. Pam had done a little research for providers in the area and while eating lunch by our apartment we noticed one of the clinics she had found was just across the street. We drove there and they were happy to help us and gave us the paperwork and information for appointments and after going home we filled out the forms and called the hospital and made appointments and we were set. 

Wednesday we went to our first session at the USO in Mayport. We learned how to check in (online) and then visited with Joyce (director) and another employee (Cheryl) and they got us going primarily in the office. We were surprised at the number of people who came in to get some service (primarily using computers) or to just look around. A free income tax service was being offered right now and they had a dozen or so people taking advantage of that. Also, a lady came to do interviews, and many came to buy tickets to a concert downtown. The Rails told us the USO was the primary way they found military members so we hope that will be the case for us also. At 5:30 pm we drove to the Mandarin Chapel south of us by the St. John's river to a meeting with the stake president. He arrived about 7:00 pm from work (He teaches pottery at the University of North Florida). We visited for a few minutes and then had a prayer and talked for about 30 minutes about our calling and a number of other issues concerning Military Relations. We didn’t get a lot of answers, but he became more informed about his role in our work. 

Thursday we got a call from the Mission Office. A mother in Arizona had called regarding her daughter who was stationed at Mayport and hadn't been to church yet. We took down the information and I called the young lady and she answered and we had a nice visit and arranged to take her to church on Sunday. Later that day we did some serious research on ships home ported at Mayport and found the church's Directory for Leaders was way out of date. I found the current ship assignments and also those on deployment and wrote an email to the main office in Salt Lake with the information to see if they could get the CDOL updated. 

Friday we were back at the USO by 10:00 am and we worked for an hour and then went to lunch and came back to help Cheryl prepare food for a Monday Dinner they sponsor every two weeks. It is called a "No Dough Dinner" and is sponsored by local businesses. They typically provide free meals to up to 150-200 people. Pam was working in the kitchen with Cheryl and I stayed in the office and took phone calls and admitted people to the facility. We met James, the night manager, and he was very nice. Actually all of them are nice and we seem to fit in well. When Pam was done I helped with dishes and then we came home--very tired! 

On Saturday Pam got up early and baked a cake for the Lee's. She wanted to thank them for allowing us to stay the night with them when we first arrived in Jacksonville. She was ready by 12:30 pm and we drove to their home south of us about 10 miles and we delivered the cake and had a nice visit with Sister Lee. President Lee was in an interview with a missionary and they had a stake conference to attend later on so we didn't stay very long. We had lunch at a local Ci Ci's. Remember that place on Kipling in Denver? Well it was really nice and we enjoyed the service, the food and the settings. Will probably put it on our lunch schedule. Oh Yes, Johanna and Travis do you remember "Whataburger" in Corpus Christi? Well they have one out on the beach and it was as good as we remembered. 

Today we set our clocks forward for Daylight Savings Time and made it to church on time. We picked up Alexis Connelley, the young lady we got the call about during the week and enjoyed getting to know her. She enjoyed the Jacksonville Beach Ward and we plan to take her there on Sundays until she gets transportation. Pam is also going to go with her to a special Relief Society meeting Tuesday evening to welcome people. It was a good day. We talked to Alexis' mother later in the day and she grew up in Gunnison and had relatives in Central Valley and Elsinore--small world!

 Main gate at Mayport Naval Station
  Beaches at Mayport Naval Station
Downtown Jacksonville 

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Week 4

We began our first full week in the mission field today. Jacksonville has been wonderful--clear skies, great temperatures and moderate humidity. What more could we ask for. Well for one a comfortable bed! The mattress is new, but very firm, so we bought a "topper" from Costco and that seemed to solve the problem. We also lowered the bed to the floor which was much better for your mother. I called Comcast and they had internet service for a pretty good price and 25 mbps so we were happy. We drove to the store north of the city and they assured us it was "plug and play." We got both our computers set up on a table and they both turned on and worked fine. We just needed Wifi! I set up the Modem and used my cell phone to check that out and initially I got on line quickly and thought we were done, but not so fast. We had to go through a “get started” phase and 3 hours later finally figured out everything. The biggest problem was passwords and user names and Pam helped immensely and finally we finished and had Wifi on all of our computers, tablets and phones and didn't have to call Alex. 

Tuesday was a "dead day" as we had to remain home for two significant deliveries. As you can imagine delivery times both in a 6 hour window. We first got a set of twin mattresses delivered for the spare bedroom. On transfer days we may be asked to host missionaries who are fresh from the MTC or en-route from one area to another and that is what the extra mattresses are for--plus they might help if we were to have visitors!! Later in the evening we also had a washer/dryer delivered and installed and now we that capability and we are grateful to the mission office for that convenience. We immediately put in a load of clothes and they worked like a charm.

Wednesday morning we enjoyed attending a District Meeting held at a local chapel about 2 miles from our apartment. We are in the Fort Caroline District with 3 other companionship's--two sets of elders and one set of sisters. It was quite a small district but what a wonderful meeting. Elder Erickson conducted and was well prepared and taught from PMG, a Missionary Leadership Council and from General Authority material. We also heard a special message from Elder Pacella, who is leaving next week for home, having completed his mission. He is native Italian. We finished about 12:30 pm and they spent the next 15 minutes trying to decide where to go to lunch (that sounds familiar). Finally settled on Panda Express and we followed them to the St. Johns Town Center and had a nice lunch. Pam and I picked up the tab and were happy to do that. In the afternoon we went to Mayport Naval Station and drove around to get the lay of the land and also stopped at the Chapel and met the base Chaplain and his assistant. They were very nice to us and feel we will have a good relationship with them. In the Spring of 1990 I had been on the base for a month doing a project on the USS Saratoga. I couldn't remember or recognize anything on the base. So much had changed with new construction, etc.

Thursday we returned to Mayport and located the USO facility just outside the base and went inside and introduced ourselves and had a very nice visit with two ladies who worked there. They remembered Elder and Sister Railes, who were the last Military Relations missionaries here in Jacksonville and had high regard for them. We hoped to continue that tradition. Later in the afternoon Pam and I got online and began the application process to volunteer at the USO.

Friday we spent most of our day at the apartment working on 3 separate lists of names we received from the Railes and two current couple missionaries. They were names of military families and we sorted through them by base and planned to make contact. Later that afternoon we drove to the Beach and met with a lady from the Jacksonville Beach Ward, Stephanie Jarvis, and she went through the names with us and sadly we learned that almost of the names were families that had transferred or left the service. She knew of several families in the Beach Ward and that is where we would start. 

Saturday was a quiet day for us. Pam baked a cake for a family that invited us for dinner last Sunday and she tried out the stove and it worked just fine. We also went to a nearby Wal-Mart and did some grocery shopping and  drove around our neighborhood getting to know the area. Today we began by attending the Fort Caroline Ward nearby. We arrived early and we went to the Arlington Ward offices and asked for a membership printout from the ward clerk. Sacrament meeting was excellent and we met a lot of nice people including the Stake President. Following the meeting the ward clerk in the Fort Caroline ward also printed off a member list for us. We drove to Jacksonville Beach and got a member list and then had a very nice visit with the Bishop. Mayport Naval Station lies within the boundaries of his ward so it is our primary area to work. He invited us to attend their ward council meetings and put us on their email lists for agenda items. 

 Apartment Complex
Living Room
 Dining Room
 Fort Caroline District
Fort Caroline District
 Fort Caroline District with Pam

Week 66 (6 - 12 May)

Monday morning, Pam and I left for the USO at 9:30 am. No Dough dinner was that evening, so we were busy. Upon arrival my birthday was cele...