"Grand as it is, planet Earth is part of something even grander- that great plan of God. Simply summarized, the Earth was created that families might be." Elder Russell M. Nelson

Sunday, December 20, 2015

We were given the name of the closest chapel for us to attend and Rick drove downs the left side of the road until we arrived at the Dural Ward in the Normanhurst chapel. I am getting used to the driving a little bit. I still sometimes try and stick the wrong finger up my nose. I haven't signaled with the windscreen wiper lever for a couple of days.
 It is entertaining for me to see the different ways of doing things here and many other places we have traveled.  At the beginning of Sacrament meeting, before anything was said, a young girl sang "Joy to the World" and then the bishop stood to welcome everyone.  What a treat to be told that Elder Elder Terence M. Vinson of the Seventy was home for the holiday.  This is his family's home ward.

His area of authority is the West African, Ghana area.  First Sister Vinson spoke.  She mentioned that it is common for the missionaries there to be approached and asked to be taught the gospel.  She said in lieu of gifts, most people give food and necessities to their family. After she spoke, a hymn was sung and it seemed like everyone was singing and then Elder Vinson spoke. He said until the country was declared Ebola free, missionaries had not been sent there. The work is rapidly going forth now.  He made the comment that one of the prophets told a new general authority that "in church callings you will be praised, listen, but never inhale".  I liked that.

We both enjoyed the wonderful Sacrament meeting and seeing missionaries we met the first couple of days we were here.  We spoke with wonderful people.  We attended Gospel Doctrine.  The teacher is a wonderful lady who is a linguist, speaks nine languages.  She is from Argentina and teaches at the University here.  She did a great job.  Relief Society also had a wonderful teacher and then the bishopric brought everyone Christmas cake to eat.  We had a wonderful time. In High Priests quorum, Elder Vinson spent some time talking about a Christ Centered Life. His understanding of Gospel principles is very deep and powerful but he is a humble man. The HP instructor was a wonderful fellow who was baptized some years ago by an Missionary Elder who lives in Parowan, Utah, The instructor has visited southern Utah and was familiar with Cedar City and the St. George area. He is a very independent person and a lover of freedom. After the block we spent about 20 minutes discussing gun control and the 2nd amendment in the U.S. and how agency and the Gospel relate to the subject. I wish that everyone had his understanding of the these ideas. He is extremely well educated and informed. I would call him erudite and he would know that it was a compliment. 

                                                               View of the church

Sunday at church in Dural Ward, Normanhurst, with left to right mission assistants Elder King, Elder Ostler, who have been so helpful to us, with Christmas goodies given to them by the members, and a new elder.

Monday, December 21, 2015

This morning we obtained our "working with children" permit required in Australia as a deterrent against harm coming to children.  Elder Williams, one of the missionaries in the office took us.  He has a great English accent and is lots of fun.  He and his wife do a wonderful job taking care of many 
many things.  His wife is Australian and it is a second marriage for both.

After, we picked up our bedding bag to take with us and searched for the flat keys we would need in Armidale.  We were trained on how to take charge of the Christmas Light event tonight and then went to the mall to eat before the program began at 7:30 p.m.  Rick had a fish and chips meal and I had a Honey nut chicken and fried rice meal.  At the Buckland House where the paintings showing the life of Christ are held, we worked with about 40 missionaries arriving from all over the mission to attend the Christmas zone conference tomorrow.  It started raining hard this morning and continued all day so the elders and sisters were very wet when they arrived after walking from train and bus stations.  Because of the rain, no doubt, we had few visitors attend the event. Last night 400 people came through.

Our busy day ended at 10:30 and we went to our flat and eagerly fell into bed.

The Chinese honey nut chicken and rice was very good

Rick's fish and chips

Other choices

At the Buckland House Christmas show: Sister Berger, Elder and Sister Pearce handing out apples and granola bars to the hungry arriving missionaries. Sister Pearce in many ways was a doppleganger for Marianne Jackson.

Elders in the rain in front of the Nativity Scene

The Christmas lights around the Buckland House and the Temple were lovely

On the right is Elder Evans and his companion working in the rain.  He is from Perth and when Rick asked him if he knew Elder Chandler Day he said absolutely, he had gone on splits with him and that he had not wanted to go on a mission but Elder Day had such a great influence on him, that he decided to go.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Christmas Zone Conference is being held today and tomorrow because of the many missionaries in the mission.  Because we leave tomorrow for Armidale, today was our day to attend.  We rode to the conference with the Williams's.  We both really enjoy Elder Williams.  Once there, all of us had a lite breakfast and then heard from President Checketts, played games, had a talent show, watched Church videos including the Mormon Tabernacle Choir with Sesame Street characters, had hamburgers for lunch with rootbeer or orange floats.  

The missionaries were so happy to see each other.  They had a hoop shooting contest and handed out gifts to each missionary.  One of the games was having 32 red solo cups that they had to stack and then put back together within one minute.  Another game, they had to suck m'ms with a straw and move to another container.  One they had to put a cookie on their nose and get it into their mouths without touching the cookie with their hands.  About 4:30 they were fed nachos and dessert and after receiving their Santa gift, everyone left. 

It was very successful.  That particular church has no heat and the continued rain made it cold all day. After the conference, Rick and I picked up his insulin that we had been storing at President Checkett's house and our possible remote for the Armidale garage and came home to prepare for our departure tomorrow.  The Temple Housing has strict cleaning requirements for those who use them so we will need to get up early to clean and get on our way.

Elders trying to beat each other in moving the most M & M's.

Elder and Sister Williams

One of the elders who succeeded with slipping the cookie into his mouth

Solo cup competition half-way to finish

I had to put this picture of Elder and Sister Willis, the Public Affairs missionaries, in as she is a real doppelganger for Jeanne Tuttle, who cuts my hair.

Sister Dennie on the left and her companion.  We travelled with her from Salt Lake all the way to Sydney.  She is a darling girl with so much sweetness and potential.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

We got up at 6:00 a.m. and packed and cleaned our motel room.  It has rained for three days but stopped at least until we got out of Sydney  Most of our drive to Armidale was on the New England Highway.  The area is so very green and lush with foliage and that is why the name.  It rained off and on all day but the ride was beautiful.  We saw sheep ranches, horse ranches and cattle ranches but NO KANGAROOS even though we warned to watch out for them as they are easy to hit in the area we would be traveling.  Everything looked so clean and well taken are of.  I imagine the constant green helped to give the impression of clean. We stopped and ate at a HUNGRY JACKS restaurant. It is the Australian Burger King. The Hamburger tastes a little different here. I'm not sure what it is but it just has an unfamiliar taste to it. Speculate among yourselves.

We arrived at our flat.  Real estate is so expensive here that our little flat probably costs a fortune.  There is one bedroom that holds a queen sized bed and nothing else.  There is a little bedroom that it looks like the previous occupant used to iron in.  There is one small bathroom with toilet, sink and shower and the dining/living room are the same room with a small, very small kitchen area.  The dining table and the sofa and chair are white.  It is clean and nice and in a very pretty complex with lots of flowers and shrubs but we have lots to do to make it home.   Where in the world are we going to put six suitcases???  There are many cathedrals in this house and a beautiful one, St. Mary's, with a private school attached is right across the street from us.

We went to the supermarket, Coles and got some groceries.  I'm sure we will need to go tomorrow as well after we do a checklist at the flat of what is needed.  I have learned a grocery cart here is a trolley, you do not pass cars, you overtake.  You do not yield, you give way.  When you order food to go it is take away.  It is fun to see the different ways of communicating.

The two sister missionaries serving here came over to see if we were okay.  I think we will invite them to eat with us on Christmas if they haven't been asked to go elsewhere.  As there are very few branch members in Armidale, I doubt they have anywhere else to eat.  The branch president lives one hour away, runs a sheep and cattle farm and is 70 years old.  He just happened to be in Armidale today and came over to talk to us.  It sounds like there are two families, three single sisters, 4 primary children, one young woman and one young man.  Wow!  He said they would need us everywhere and have to spread us thin. I have not been thin for 50 years, I may be due for a change in my BMI.

Friday, December 25, 2015 (Christmas)

We came to the church at 10:00 a.m.  Wi-Fi on this beautiful, sunny, Christmas morning. It has rained for the past four days. The branch president, who kind of lives in the outback on a sheep farm, asked us to Christmas lunch and we will have an hour drive to get there.  He promised there are lots of kangaroos on his property and I want a picture as so far no kangaroos anywhere we have been.  We invited the sister missionaries in Armidale, Sister Going and Sister Preston Turner, to come eat with us tonight at 6:30.  Strange, to try to cook.  I'm having rotisserie chicken, yams, rolls, mashed potatoes with cheese (scary, the cheese is different here) and green beans.  We will have cookies and ice cream for dessert.  

I would say Rick is especially feeling lost as everything is so different and at this point we are on our own. I am feeling very ineffective so far. All we have done is unpack and clean the apartment and do some shopping. We have talked to several people and wished them Merry Christmas. I guess we shouldn't expect too much from Christmas eve and today is Christmas. We are hoping to get some direction and assignments from President Sully and get busy at church on Sunday. We haven't been to the branch church yet and do not know what we should be doing for them. We do not have TV, radio or internet at the flat.  We hope to at least get internet.  Sunday will be nice to go to church and look at the numbers who attend.  We are thinking it will be less than 20.  This little church has many "old" library materials that tells me it was once thriving.  I guess many have moved to get better jobs.  We will need to be proselyting missionaries as well as everything else it appears and I feel VERY lacking in that ability so am counting on the prayers of church members who pray for the missionaries to help me!!

Christmas - Friday, December 25, 2015

Yesterday we were asked to come to President Sully’s sheep and cattle farm at noon for a Christmas lunch which was appreciated as we are experiencing a very different Christmas this year.  We invited the sister missionaries to come to our place at 6 pm for dinner.  When I got out of bed, I hung the Del Parson calendar pages showing different moments of the Savior’s life, on the walls.  I brought them with me all the way from home and am so glad I did as the walls of our flat are bare and the pictures
of the Savior warm things up a lot. Then we opened our pillow cases from the 4th ward and took a picture.  It is so fun to read the comments; it makes me vow to do a better job in the future making comments on missionary pillowcases when I get home. Sister Berger has done a wonderful job of decoration except she wouldn’t let me put up the Porter Rockwell picture.

We left here in the morning to go to the church and use their Wi-Fi to set up skype times with the kids on their Christmas day.  Utah time is 18 hours behind us. At noon on Christmas day here, it was 6 pm Christmas eve in Utah. It sounds like I could tell you what will happen tomorrow but it doesn’t work that way, I’m sorry to say.   Then we left for the farm which is an hour away.  It rained again most of the way but was beautiful.  Everything is so green and there were cattle grazing and then sheep and the repetition of that for most of the way to President Sully’s.  He has about a three-mile unpaved road leading up to his house.  The farm is gorgeous.  There are colorful parrots, beautiful horses, cattle and sheep and even kangaroos which we were hoping to see as thus far in Australia we have not seen them.

Sister Sully had prepared roasted potatoes, roasted chicken, yams and carrots served together, broccoli and peas served together with Christmas pudding for dessert served with custard and whip cream.  There was no sugar in the whipped cream and very little salt in the meal which seems to be the norm in Australia.  They do not have such a thing as non-dairy whipped topping like cool-whip.  I learned that candy here is called a lolly or a sweet.  President had invited a new move-in into the branch, Frank Benich and his wife to eat with us and Lupe, a Tongan woman who has a two-year-old girl and is in the middle of a nasty divorce.  Frank is gregarious and funny.  He is renting a sheep farm, looking for one to buy. We spent some time sitting on the patio, talking about things in general and getting to know one another. It turns out that President Sully and Frank both enjoy guns and hunting. I showed them a few pictures of one of my firearms and the picture of Tom Sellick (Mathew Quigley) that we took at the Las Vegas Antique Arms show a couple of years ago. They were fascinated and told me about their shooting adventures. President Sully then Self-identified as just a Redneck and Frank and I joined him as though we all were just 3 good ‘ol boys. I need to spend a little more time with them when I can. They both have remarkable strong testimonies and when Frank said a heartfelt prayer on the food he included his thankfulness for the gift to us of The Savior..  His wife came for the weekend from their home in Brisbane.  She hasn’t moved permanently to the farm as of yet.  Her name is Nurell and seemed very nice.

After dinner, the president and we two discussed branch needs.  He asked Rick to teach Gospel Doctrine and me to be the branch pianist which is no surprise as they don’t have anyone who plays the piano in the branch.  President Sully is a young 70 years old, an architect by profession who worked for the Church all over the world designing church buildings.  He intended to retire to his sheep farm in peace and was surprised when he was called to be the Armidale branch president.  He is concerned as many members have left the area to obtain better jobs and the shrinkage of members makes it difficult for the branch to function as it should.  Many members live long distances away from the chapel.  The President, himself, is an hour’s drive away which means of course another hour to get home. 

On our way home, we finally saw kangaroos and Rick took some pictures.  They are gray and for some reason I expected them to be brown.  Because the fields have lots of fallen branches that are gray colored, the kangaroos are camouflaged much of the time which might explain why we have had trouble seeing them before.  They are also only active in the early morning and at dusk. Today was the first time that we have driven this late in the day in a rural area where they live. I’m sure that if we had waited a while, we would have seen lots more of them and probably some wallabies as well.
Once home, we hurried to put our meal together for the sister missionaries.  Ironically enough, I had purchased rotisserie chickens from the grocery store and made yams so Rick and I were not too eager to eat the duplicate meal again. The sisters, Sister Going and Sister Preston Turner were sweet and after we ate we discussed what they knew about the branch.  Sister Going leaves for home in February. 

Armidale branch chapel dedicated March 25, 1984

Views of our flat on Jesse Street

St. Mary's Cadthedral

A view from the car on our way to President Sully's ranch.

Rick's selfie with the missionary sisters.

Christmas dinner with Sister Preston-Turner on the left and Sister Going on the right.  You can see some of the calendar pages behind us that I brought from St. George.

Sister Berger with Santa Clara 4th ward Christmas pillowcases opened Christmas morning. I don’t know whose name to sleep on first.  Will I dream of Santa Clara 4th when I sleep on my pillow with this case on it?

Australia has so many cool birds with cool songs they sing.  The kookaburra bird has a very intense sound.  We don’t know what species these long billed birds are but we saw these in our trip to President Sully ‘s Christmas lunch.

These beautiful parrots were a stone’s throw from President Sully’s patio.  President Sully said that they come and eat the birdseed that he puts out for them.

Sister Sully at the oven, Norell next to Sister Berger.

Graham and Marion bringing out the roasted potatoes from the oven, Norell looking at the feast.

“FINALLY” our first kangaroo sighting just leaving President Sully’s farm.

Kangaroos are fast and this one didn’t want to let us look at him any longer than necessary.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Knowing we had scheduled hours starting at 1:00 p.m. to skype with the kids, we walked downtown to the mall in the morning. The Mall has a Grocery Store named Woolworth's and a Variety store named Big W. They are somewhat different from what we are used to.  We also walked around the cathedral to determine a daily walking path for our regular daily exercise. It is Boxing Day and almost nothing was opened downtown but we enjoyed the charming, New England looking town and got some good exercise.  After, we ate leftovers from yesterday's meal and went to the church to clean.  It seemed that it had been quite some time since anyone had cleaned it and we were happy to be busy. 

We SO ENJOYED seeing the children and grandchildren and hearing about their Christmas as it was Christmas for them, the day after for us.  All of them have roof over their heads, food in their stomachs and each other for which I am grateful.  Some have serious challenges right now in their lives and we are proud of them for being equal to those challenges.

When we were finished with skype we went back to the flat and had something to eat and watched two of the church videos we happened to have in the left behind belongings of the previous senior couple, "The Lamb of God" and Gospel Questions.  It was a nice day.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Today we attended our first Church services at the Armidale Branch.  As it is holiday time, there were fewer numbers than usual, I counted eighteen.  There were only four priesthood holders and President Sully's visiting son. It is definitely a challenge having so few priesthood holders. 

I spoke to two women who are recently back to being active.  They are both single.  Lupe and her cute daughter, Amy Rose, came.  As President Sully had a combined Priesthood/Relief Society meeting and showed the First Presidency Christmas Devotional and Amy Rose had to be taken out and I had already seen the devotional, I took Amy Rose to the nursery while her mother listened.  She is a darling two year old and as we played with play dough, I found myself saying, "Grandma is making a dog for you" and then caught myself.  I miss playing with my grandchildren.

We made macaroni and cheese and I ate leftovers, Rick was tired of them but enjoyed the homemade Mac & Cheese, and then back to the church to finish up the blog and print Rick's Gospel Doctrine handouts for next week.

It is interesting to me that we are still thinking that things should be the way we expect them to be. We think that things are best at home but we are still discovering new things. We very likely will find some things that we enjoy much more and will miss eventually when we leave and they are no longer available. We bought some Kraft Peanut Butter and it was excellent. I found some artisan bread that was delicious. Snicker bars are as yet untried because they are $2.00 each or about $1.50 U.S. I believe that they will not be as sweet as at home because they are made here and most things have been that way. One day, when they are on sale, I will find out and let you know.

 I have found that our Branch President is a wonderful, spiritual man who really cares about his little flock. He gave a great talk today in Sacrament and it could have been given in conference. I don't think that I could be more impressed with a priesthood leader. I'm sure that this blog will become more brief as we get busier. I hope that it will also become more accurate and objective. Right now, everything we write is filtered through our preconceived ideas and sometimes through our misconceived ideas. As we obtain a broader view we hope to pass along much more correct information.I guess you could say as did Paul, that we see through a glass darkly, but the view will soon become clear.


  1. I love reading these updates!

  2. I just took some time to catch up on the posts I hadn't read yet. It's so wonderful to read what you're up to. We miss you so much already and it's nice to hear your voices and your humor in your writing. Love you both!!