"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, January 31, 2016
Sheila in Black Rick in blue

Monday, January 25, 2016

Today it rained buckets.  We took a birthday card to a ward member.  After, we went to the store and purchased more cards and a can of ajax cleanser that I have been wanting and not sure they had here as some of the Primary classrooms have crayon on the walls and I am hoping the Ajax will remove it. As is the case with many items in Australia, the price was much higher than in the States.

The new elders arrived and called us and we invited them over for dinner.  They are Elder Peterson from Bakersfield, California and Elder Kehler from Las Vegas, Nevada. I hadn't planned on guests so they got meatloaf.  I think they enjoyed it.  They are wonderful young men and we are excited to work with them. I love the Australian accent, but I also am glad that I can easily understand these young Elders. They are full of the spirit and up for the challenge. They will do well here. I think, that because of television and movies, the Aussies understand us better than we understand them. Almost no one here, except Sister Berger, ever asks me to repeat anything but I am always asking them to talk a little slower or please spell something that I did not get. Of course,another theory is that they don't understand me either but do not particularly care about what I have to say.

The infamous $3.50 Ajax Cleanser.

Sheila, Elder Kehler (rhymes with Taylor), and Elder Peterson

Making Plans.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016 - Australia Day

Today we traveled to Kentucky to meet with Sister Josephine Pendragon.  She was gracious and asked us to pray before we left.  Her son, Shane and granddaughter, Lilly were both there. Lilly is as cute as can be. She introduced herself to me as Elsa (from Frozen). We talked about the movie and the scary snow monster, She makes me miss my granddaughters, she reminds me so much of them.   There is a sadness in me to see people with a variety of challenges of life not taking advantage of the peace and direction provided through living the gospel of Jesus Christ.

On our way back to the flat we thought we would try to catch another member we missed before.  We found Jennifer Cunningham and her husband, Alex home and just ready to start eating their dinner but they insisted we come in and visit.  They were fun people and insisted they would be coming to church or to a potluck if we held one,  He is not a member but a lovely person who has an accent very much like Paul Hogan's of Crocodile Dundee. We definitely want to spend some more time with these great people. They are bright, funny, and make you feel great when you are around them.

The MacDonald family had invited us to dinner along with the new elders to celebrate Australia Day with them.  Australia day is interesting as it celebrates the arrival of Captain Cook to Botany Bay with the prisoners that began the practice of using Australia as a huge penal colony.

We had such a lovely time at their home.  Brother MacDonald has begun medical school here and his wife just completed her Masters Degree with plans on being a teacher.  They have four darling children age 20 months to six years, some of whom make us miss our grandchildren heaps, as they say here.  We had what they call a "works" burger.  I decided to eat it just like them so it starts out with a bun about 1 1/2 times the ones in the States, fresh from the bakery, then the meat (I chose a chicken mince burger instead of the beef mince), then a fried egg, cheese, tomato, lettuce, beet root (that's pickled beets) and then pineapple.  I loved every bite.  She made us Pavlova for dessert which is very Australian.  It is like the meringue from a lemon meringue pie with fresh cream and lots of fruit.  It was really good too.  They are a wonderful, very active family who provide much needed stability and commitment to our branch.

I don't know what kind of trees that these tall ones are but they are all over this area. Here is a picture of an average sized one with Sheila standing next to it.  She is at the edge of the road. I would estimate this one at 85 feet. I put this picture in twice in case you did not believe it the first time that you looked at it. There are many of these trees that look to be well over 100 feet tall. This one was just a few meters away from the Pendragon home. I figured out that the reason that they are so tall is that they are on the bottom half of the world and are actually growing DOWN, whereas the trees that grow on the Northern Hemisphere have to grow up and that is much more difficult. You have to admire the California Redwoods. If they were here they would be 1000 feet tall if my theory holds.

Hey! I thought we were in Australia. This sign looks like we are just south of Indiana. Actually this is Kentucky, New South Wales. It is also of note that at the far north end of our area there is a town named Texas. You could win if you bet that Texas is north of Kentucky.

Left to right: Josephine Pendragon, granddaughter Lilly, son Shane, and me


Left to right:  Alex Cunningham, Jennifer Cunningham, and me

Yummy Pavlova dessert with its creator, Kate MacDonald and son, Toby

Lucy, to the left, who reminds us so much of our granddaughter, Kate. It is not so much the way that she looks, but her "I'm in charge" attitude. There is no shortage of self confidence in Granddaughter Kate or in Lucy MacDonald.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Today we drove to Kingstown to see if we could find an inactive family there.  So many of the roads we have traveled here are oiled, narrow roads with sheep or cattle farms on both sides.  Kingstown is by itself and the neighbors are far from each other.  Rick found directions on Google Earth.

When we arrived at the coordinates, we were greeted at first by a barking, growling dog and then its owner, Mr. Bateman, who turned out to be who we were looking for.  He was very gracious.  He joined the church years ago as a single dad with three little children and fell out of activity when changes occurred in his branch.  Those children are grown and he is now remarried with three little children.  They were so glad to obtain their current home, away from any city.

We really enjoyed our time with this cute family and when Elder Berger asked if we could return each month and if they would like us to leave a message each time we visited, they said yes, and yes.  We hope to involve the elders in our next visit. I really thing that the Gospel would be welcome in their home. We have since seen wife Alicia working in the grocery store "Woolworth's" and she was happy to see us. I think that she would be a great member. I also feel that Brother Bateman would like to be active. He seemed happy when he told us about the time when he was involved and active.

We returned home to work on calendaring for the next week and month and to compile materials for our early morning seminary next week.  

Alesha, Eli, Lauren, Brother Bateman and Nevaeh (Heaven spelled backward)

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Not much to report today as it poured rain so we used it to plan.  We received pictures of the Jackman house from Sister Sully who I asked to take pictures when she visited them today  When we visited them a week ago, we forgot to take pictures.  This is the family with 1500 acres of property who have built their home themselves in stages.  

This backsplash Sister Jackson did herself

Ivy over the kitchen table (plastic)

Brother Jackman's tribute to the "Old West" along with some of his shooting trophies. 

The kitchen//living room with carpet covering the dirt floors

Friday, January 29, 2016

Elder Berger went with the elders to teach a lesson to an elderly man at one of the rest homes.  When he returned I did my weekly music practice with Sister Betts.

We traveled to Boorolong to look for two sisters on our branch list. We had a physical address but no phone numbers or e-mail addresses. It was about an hours drive northwest of Armidale, where we live.  It was raining lightly and the drive was beautiful.  The ranch was huge and we finally found someone who informed us the sisters had sold their property and moved to Armidale.  Hopefully, we can find them.  

A kind of spooky Halloween looking tree.

I love the tunnels created by the trees on each side of the road growing over the road 
and meeting in the middle

Saturday, January 30, 2016

We had some inactive members that said they were too busy to meet with us today so used it more as a planning/preparation day as I have to plan sharing time for tomorrow and Rick has his Gospel Doctrine class to work on.  Monday we start early morning seminary. It will be interesting to have my first High School Seminary experience to be as a teacher. I was a rebellious youth who refused to take Seminary in High School. I feel sorry for the students but I will do my best. Sister Berger will do her usual wonderful job when she teaches. I am afraid that my efforts will suffer by comparison. I sincerely hope that we can do some good in that situation.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

It rained heavily in the night but was a beautiful sunny day.  Once again, when Sacrament meeting began, we had few members (12) but some more came within a few minutes giving us a total present of twenty four.  That included children. It included everyone in the building. Our new elders commented on it being the smallest group they had been part of.  Neither one of them have ever been in a branch before.

Elder Berger's Gospel Doctrine class was on the great and abominable church and was very good with lots of discussion. It went way better than I thought that it would. I could feel the Spirit in the class and many of the members told me later that they felt it also. The class members shared insights that were spot on interpretations of the scriptures that we were reading. No one fell asleep in class today (somebody call Ripley). My sharing time was a learning experience when I had to lead singing, play the piano and try to control the kids who obviously have had a pretty unconventional primary experience thus far but they were darling.  

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sheila writes in black and Rick writes in blue

Monday, January 18, 2016

Today was our Preparation Day so we cleaned our little flat and had a great time skypeing with each of our children.  It is wonderful to have this ability to keep in touch.

I made sugar cookies frosted with with pink frosting, some of which to take with us to visit a sister in our ward, some to take with us to visit members in Wallangra tomorrow and some to take to an eleven year old boy with his birthday card Wednesday.

The sister we visited today is extremely shy and very sweet. She has never been married and is the only member of the church in her family. It is fun to hear the accents I have previously only heard on TV.  She talked about vacationing with her Mum and Da.  She has traveled a lot considering she only works mornings and lives in a little apartment. She loves to knit and has won first place with an absolutely beautiful baby blanket.  She loves to do puzzles.  She loves Lord of the Rings and has memorabilia for those movies and for Pirates of the Caribbean that she picked up on her visit to the United States..

We left her with prayer and cookies and headed out to communicate with the person over Seminary and Institute in Australia.  He is sending us the materials we need to start early morning Seminary.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Today we got up early and headed for Wallangra and Inverell to visit two different families.  These members live a 2-3 hour drive away so if they come to church it is a nine hour day from the driving and attending the 3 hour block.  Consequently, they only manage to attend once per month, if that. I love the names of the places here in Australia. We drove through Bundarra, Yarrowick, Booloominbah, Tingah, Gilgai, Wandera, Nullamanna, Bukkulla, and Coolatai. If ypu think they sound different than what you are used to, wait until an Australian accent gets involved.

We stopped in Invcerell for lunch at a Chinese Restaurant and walked around.  It is a cute town with a population of 12,000.  After lunch we headed for Wallangra and the farm where our first appointment is scheduled with the Jackmans. .

Brother and Sister Jackman live on 1500 acres of farm land a long distance away from civilization. If this is not the Outback, it is at least the bush. They had fresh Kangaroo droppings on their porch. We got lost and had to ask directions of some distant neighbors who couldn't help us but did let us use their phone to call the sister we were trying to visit, as our cell phone was out of area with no coverage there.

We finally arrived at our destination.  The one landmark Sister Jackman had mentioned was that their mailbox was a blue refrigerator and her paddock area where they live had an entrance with stacks of tires with witches hats on top and it was in front of their "shack" as she called it.  She is in her late sixties and he is seventy.  He is dying of terminal cancer and has been given a few weeks to live.   He is on fluids and pain killers so basically is starving.  He didn't want to fight a cancer that was already in his liver, bowels and pancreas when it was diagnosed.  He slept while we visited with his wife.   Visiting them was a very wonderful experience.

Brother Jackman woke up long enough for Rick to mention guns.  He was the Australian pistol champion. I could tell that he wanted to talk more but he was too weak. He did tell me that he loved the old Smith & Wesson revolvers just like I do. He also shot Practical Pistol matches with semi-automatic Colt Pistols.  His wife said they had shared many interests together: speed boating, shooting, motorcycles.  She said they had both had failed marriages and were so thankful to have found each other and been sealed in the temple as she loved him so much.  She said when he passes she will be very sad but she will know that he is just a ways away and they will reunite when Heavenly Father is ready for her to join him. I kept thinking about the Dolly Parton song, "Have you Seen My Dear Companion."

Her testimony born in various statements she made was very touching to us and tears were shed.  His father was the first bishop called in Australia so he was raised in the church but she was a convert as an adult and the only member in her family.  They built their home on this isolated but beautiful farm, with aluminum shed/buildings. They added on as they had the money.  Some of the house has dirt floors with carpet on top, some floors are cement.  They have kangaroos, wild pigs and wild goats and they shoot and eat the pigs and goats when they need meat.  They have solar panels and are trying to get self sufficient with power in the near future.  They also had photo collages of western movies and I think that she liked the fact that I could name them all. She seemed to enjoy the fact that there was someone else here that enjoyed the same movies that they did.

We left them with cookies, the Relief Society/Priesthood manual and a quote from Relief Society's Sunday lesson.  We told them we would try to visit every couple of months.

When we left we went back to Inverell to visit the Ali family.  She and her husband and daughter, are from Fiji.  Her daughter, Michelle, went on a mission to Trinidad. Sister Ali's husband is Muslim but is very tolerant. This is a second marriage for Sister Ali and she and Mr. Ali have a ten year old son, Rishaad, together.  Both of the Ali's are on work visas and want to stay here.  They were very gracious.  They support one another's activities in their separate religions.  They served us a wonderful cake with juice and egg rolls.  I left some cookies with them.  Sister Ali said  previously  the senior couples, had a monthly social with members in Inverell at the park and we said we would continue the practice.  She agreed to be our contact person. She and her daughter come to church once a month, usually on Fast Sunday.

We left at 8:30 a.m. and returned home at 7:30 p.m.  The Sister missionaries are facing a transfer this weekend and Sister Preston-Turner, who is only five feet tall (I'm not sure that she is 5 feet but she is well over 4 feet tall)  was given two dresses from Sister Going, who is five feet eight so she asked me to hem up the dresses and they came over and left the dresses. It was a lovely day but a long one and I am very tired and sleepy.

Beautiful Sugar Cookies

Such hard work?

Check out the guards on the front of these Toyotas. They are for protection from smacking Kangaroos at dusk. These guards are on most of the trucks and SUVs and on lots of regular autos as well.

Beautiful Inverell
If you look closely you will see that the bank is the bank of St. George.

Scenes in a Chinese restaurant. The food was great, not spicy, and cost us about $16.00 US for the both of us.
Yeah, it's a selfie.

The Ali's with Rishaad in front.
Bundarra, above and below

Here are several pictures of what I call the "Simpsons" clouds. If you have ever seen the intro to "The Simpsons" you will recognize these clouds. Go onto Google images and search Simpsons clouds and you will see what I mean.

Jackman Country

Leaving the pavement on the way to the Jackman's.

The blue fridge is the Jackman's Mailbox. If you have a somewhat checkered past you will recognize what the other mailbox was used for earlier in it's life.

Dirt roads on the way to the Jackman's ranch.

I saw this very tall (80' to 100') tree standing alone on the horizon and it reminded me of Brother 'Jackman for some reason. My feelings were that even though his faithful wife is constantly at his side, passing from this side of the veil to the other is something that he will do alone. It will only be for a moment and then he will again be standing tall as a joyful reunion will take place on the other side because he comes from a "Forever Family".

Many of the trees have no bark yet they are thriving. I thought that was impossible.

Finally, pavement again for the trip back to Armidale. 
Just for a laugh here is a riddle.
Question: What do you call a dog with no legs?
Answer: It doesn't matter, he won't come anyway.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

We went to the church where Sister Betts and I went through the music for Sunday.  She is a lovely person who like so many in the branch is the only member in her family.  We enjoyed a good visit after our practice.

We put together a birthday card for a branch member turning eleven along with a bag of candy and some of the sugar cookies for his family.  His card read, "The thing about eleven is you have run out of fingers to count with, good thing you have toes,  Eleven Rules!"  He is a darling young man.

Thursday, January 21, 2017

Today we changed our morning walk going in circles around the Cathedral and walked down to one of the parks.  Civic Park was filled with Kookaburra birds with their funny, easily recognizable chirps.  They are beautiful in flight but their sound sounds like they are insulting someone. Their call reminds me of a cell phone ringtone.

We traveled to Uralla to meet with Brother and Sister Styles.  His health is failing so his lovely wife is frequently tied to home.  They have been members for three years and went through the temple last year.  We so enjoyed our visit.  It is a wonderful experience, meeting these people whom we have never spoken to before and yet feeling their sweet spirits which makes us feel like family. Her son is a gunsmith so Rick hopes to have future conversations with him.

Once home we visited with the sister missionaries as one of them had requested a blessing because she hasn't been feeling well. I delivered the shortened, hemmed dresses to her that she had asked me to alter.  

Sister Betts and I after our music practice.  
Sister Berger enjoying the view from a member's driveway.

Pictures of the Kookaburras

This Kookabura bird in flight reminds me of the book "Jonathan Livingston Seagull"

This sign amuses me each time I see it.  This is the crosswalk sign here in Australia
Friday, January 22, 2016

Today we traveled to Tamworth at the request of our mission president, President Checketts.  He asked us to bring the sister missionaries with us.  We enjoyed getting better acquainted with the sisters who will no doubt be transferred this Friday on transfer day.  We met President Checketts and the Tamworth elders at Hungry Jacks for lunch and then went to the Tamworth Ward chapel for interviews with the president.

The Tamworth meetinghouse is a very nice building that was built when attendance was between 100 and 200 people.  Today, the elders said, they have an attendance of about 25.  After President Checkett's interviewed all four missionaries, he and Sister Checketts talked to us about how we are feeling about our mission and what we are doing.  We all agreed that Member / Leader Support is a mission no one can understand until they are doing it.  Much of it is totally up to the individual missionaries.  President Checketts committed us to do a companion study of the New Testament Harmony of the Gospels which we plan to do on a daily basis.

We finished our discussion feeling good about what was talked about.  One thing President Checketts said all missionaries need to do more of is teach investigators and less actives about the present day joy of being members, not just the joy in the hereafter.  We were given commitment cards to give to members of the branch requesting their involvement in the missionary effort.  I really liked the quote at the bottom of the card by Neil Anderson: "If you're not a full-time missionary with the badge pinned on your coat, now is the time to pin one on your heart."

Here are the Tamworth Elders and the Sisters waiting for President Checketts.

Elder & Sister B. with President and Sister Checketts. Yeah, he is that big. I am 6'1" and 215 and I look like Casper Milqtoast standing next to him. The good thing is that his love for the Missionaries and the Missionary work is just as big as he is.
Here I am with the Tamworth Elders. The DL Elder Lynch is in the middle.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

We had some spectacular thunder and rain today.  We went to the church for the usual Saturday cleaning and copying of some materials we need.  We then walked down the street to the Produce market and suddenly there was a downpour.  I asked for an extra plastic bag and wore it over my head as we walked home.  We decided not to go to Kingstown to meet with a member because of the downpour and possibility of flooded muddy roads.

When we moved into our apartment we found that the security latch on the front door was broken. Of course, we had it fixed. Today we found out why it was broken when we moved in. When I tried to open the door today, it jiggled the mechanism over and it caught the bolt and we were locked out. Of course, we had ice cream in our bag and the temperature outside was about 85 degrees. We borrowed some tools from the neighbor and I was able to break the mechanism using a hammer and chisel and we were then able to enter our dwelling. I am sure that this happened to the previous missionary couple. I will repair the unit on the day that we leave. Won't that be a good joke on our replacements. The fun and adventures never end here in Armidale. Oh, by the way, the ice cream made it to the freezer just in time.

This is a picture of the intact latch on the inside of our other door.  I include this so that your understanding may be more complete.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

We arrived at church early to practice music with Sister Betts and then our 3-hour block began. Today a counselor in the district presidency, President Allfred and a counselor in the mission presidency, President Lenaham were there to both speak and teach about self-reliance. The self-reliance workbook is a wonderful help to anyone wanting to be wise in the choice of a profession, get more education, start a business, or find a job. One of our long time inactive members who came today caused a bit of a disruption during the presentation but Elder Berger took him out and handled it well. This person has a good heart, but has some personal issues. We need to be careful not to judge.

I am always so impressed with our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ providing inspiration for the programs and teachings through the prophet and First Presidency to provide for the people prior to their needing it. I am sure this information on self-reliance will be a blessing mostly recognized in the future years. It seems as though it is a little easier to get government assistance here. If that is correct then there would be less incentive to take care of yourself. A large part of this program is to help people grow and develop into the Lord's people. "We all have work, let no one shirk, put your shoulder to the wheel" is the song that I am thinking of.