Monday morning our week began and it was Labor Day, so the USO was closed for the day and we had time to relax and rest. I called a couple of sailors from the USS Iwo Jima about an upcoming deployment and had a nice conversation with one man being nominated to serve as Lay Leader for the upcoming cruise. Following that conversation, I contact President Heywood, Stake President, and gave him this information and left the call in his court. We had lunch and did some shopping before returning to our apartment. We heard from Alexis Connelly, one of our single sisters, and she was back from North Carolina where she had attended Boot Camp graduation for her brother who joined the Army. She had some auto problems and we were concerned about that.
Tuesday morning, we left for the USO early to help with an expected crowd of people coming to purchase NFL tickets to an upcoming Jaguars versus Patriots game. When we arrived the parking lot was full, and patrons were waiting outside in lawn chairs and some had been there several hours. Sales didn’t start until noon, so they had a long wait. Cheryl Vandiver and Dave Ostrum had everything organized and Cheryl went outside and checked ID cards and then let them into the facility to check-in and get a priority number for ticket sales. Pam and I answered the phones and they were ringing off the hook all morning long. By noon the place was full of waiting patrons. At 11:30 am I drove to the Beach Church Pantry and filled up the back of the van with food. We placed all the food on the pool table and permitted patrons to take what they wanted. Cheryl, Dave and Pam were in the middle of selling tickets and they were calling out numbers and finalizing the purchases. By 1:00 pm all the tickets were gone, and the place miraculously cleared out. Cheryl took pictures of the food I had picked up and uploaded them to Facebook and during the next couple of hours many wives came for food. By 2:30 pm everything quieted down, and Pam and I left and returned to our apartment. In the evening we babysat for Tara Alexander while she went to a Rehab facility at Jacksonville Beach where she counsels every week. She was doing a great service at the facility. Tristin and Kyler were wonderful for us and Pam sat with them in the family room and watched TV. \
Wednesday morning, I noted that 56 years earlier I had landed in Melbourne, Australia to commence my missionary service in Australia. Boy that day was vivid in my memory as I first met President McConkie and his big hands. Boy, a lot of water has flowed under the bridge of time since then. We opened the USO and I dropped off Pam and then returned for a doctor’s appointment. Prior to having a tooth extracted, Dr. Hoffman switched me to Xarelto and we needed to decide whether to stay on Xarelto or return to Warfarin. Xarelto required no testing and no food restrictions so the choice was not difficult to make, although a normal cost on the open market was $450 per month. Dr. Hoffman thought I could get a prescription filled at the Naval Station free of charge, so she wrote me a prescription. I also got a flu shot and a prescription for the new Shingles shot which they said was also available on the base. I drove back to the USO and joined in the morning fray. We got dozens and dozens of phone calls for tickets to the Jaguars versus Patriots NFL game but they were all gone. Cheryl Vandiver arrived and later Dave Ostrum also came so we reviewed the calendar and left for the day. Later in the afternoon we picked up the Sisters at the USO, where they parked their car, and we took them on base to a dinner appointment with a new family, Tony and Nikki Head. They are members of about 6 years and we hope to work with them. They love Sisters and, in the past, have attached themselves to missionaries rather than members and that has its shortcomings. But they are in a good frame of mind and ready to be active again. We had a nice meal with them and spent the better part of an hour discussing the gospel and enjoying a short by the Sisters.
Thursday morning, we were up early and on the road to the Jacksonville Stake Center for Zone Conference. The chapel was full of missionaries and we greeted President & Sister Lee and found seats. Elder Vaughn, Assistant, conducted and he welcomed everyone and following an opening hymn and prayer announced the program. We first heard from President Lee and he introduced the theme of “A More Excellent Way.” He reviewed the “Pathway” to the covenant path emphasizing the Doctrine of Christ and spent quite a bit of time discussing each aspect of the Doctrine with scriptural support. He went over the mission Slogan of “Pearls”—Prayer, Expectations, Authority, Read Book of Mormon, Lessons and Search the Teaching Record. Sister Lee followed with a discussion of Using the Book of Mormon effectively and she used the scriptures and Preach My Gospel. We then heard from President Lee again and he continued discussing “A More Excellent Way” using several video clips and stressed working with ward leaders. It was excellent with lots of interactive comments from the missionaries. The final hour of instruction was from Elder Vaughn and Carter and they taught about the Area Book and Smart Search and the importance of having a “Living Area Book.” Six missionaries who were in their last Zone Conference were invited to bear their testimonies and when done we sang “God Be with You Till We Meet Again” followed by a closing prayer. Lunch was excellent, and we enjoyed visiting with other senior missionaries and single missionaries in general. It was a very inspirational Zone Conference and President Lee was a good teacher of truth. That evening we drove to Jacksonville Beach for dinner at the Jarvis’ home. She had invited Pam and I, the Sisters and one of their investigators, named Sergio. We had a wonderful evening visiting, eating and the Sisters showed a wonderful video of President Nelson’s testimony of the Savior.
Friday morning, we returned to the USO for a few hours. It was very quiet, and Dave Ostrum had opened the facility. Shortly after noon we left and drove to a dental appointment and I met with an associate who looked at the extraction and pulled out a small piece of stitch and said everything looked good. She gave me an estimate for the next phase—Implant. With their prices I thought we would wait until we’re back in Utah. Somehow, we got to talking about our call as missionaries and that we were from Utah and she mentioned her grandparents, Bruce Marston and his wife were LDS. I asked if he was from Maine and she said yes, and I told her of our relationship with Bruce through our years in Maine. He was the Branch President in Topsham just before we arrived, in the Stake Presidency after the Portland Maine Stake was organized and had been our home teacher throughout my first deployment. A wonderful man and couple. She was not a member because her mother had kind of gone off the rails, as she put it, and was not active at all while this lady was growing up, but she lived in Brunswick, Maine and was familiar with Topsham and the Naval Air Station, etc. She came out to the foyer with me and I introduced her to Pam and we had a nice visit.
Saturday morning, we noted that Tropical Storm Florence was racing across the Atlantic and expected to increase in intensity to a Cat 3 or 4 Hurricane by the time it reached the East Coast, possibly in North Carolina. It was our first storm that we might have to contend with and at least will feel the influence of the storm with increased wind, rain and storm surge. There were two other depressions brewing off the coast of Africa, so the outlook was for a possibility of 3 simultaneous Atlantic Hurricanes. The Hurricane season is upon us! In the morning I got my hair cut and then Pam and I cleaned the apartment and did some laundry. In the afternoon we did some shopping and preparation for the weekend and next week. We were thrilled to note that our granddaughter, Beth Colton, was baptized today in Provo, Utah by her father Weston and confirmed a member of the church. We are proud grandparents.
Sunday morning, we left for church in the Jacksonville Beach Ward and were disappointed as we didn’t see any of our base families at church today. Tyler Gneck was there along with the Jarvis family. I texted Alexis and she was having a migraine again and not feeling well. Blake Harris texted Tyler that he had to be on the ship as they were doing hurricane preparations. Sacrament meeting was excellent with good talks and a sweet spirit present. Sister Davis gave one of the talks and did a fine job. We attended the Gospel Principles class and priesthood and relief society and enjoyed the instruction. Following the block, we left the beach and returned to our apartment. At 8:00 pm we watched the Face to Face event with Elder Cook. It originated from the hill in front of the Nauvoo Temple and was wonderful. Elder Cook and two Historians from the Church History Department fielded the questions, mainly about the restoration period up to Nauvoo. Been a good, busy week!