"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
Monday, December 28, 2015

(Reminder: Black print is Sheila, Blue is Rick)

We were eager to greet the day and hoped to accomplish the errands we needed to complete in order to be comfortable at the flat.  We are unable to do much as far as our missionary call as we still need a list of branch members with addresses.

We began our day with a lovely walk in brisk, blue sky air walking around the cathedral across the street.  Making the loop 5-7 times will add up to my 3 miles I hope.  We still need to drive it and make sure.

After cleaning up we walked downtown and found that many of the business places were still closed.  Being on vacation until the middle of January seems a common practice here.  We walked around finding the library, computer stores and a K-Mart which had many of the household items we needed at cheaper prices than we have found in other stores so we came home and got in the car and went back to purchase those things.

We found the video store filled with DVDs for purchase for 50 cents or a $1.00.  We found old TV series and a couple of old movies and a movie about the Australian Outback.  We have been in our flat for six days without news from the outside as we do not have internet or radio or TV, so we thought we would enjoy the option of a video prior to bed-time. They are all G or PG rated. We do listen to Bishop Terry and follow his council. 

We talked with pour next door neighbor, Jean, who is 93 years old and her children are hours away.  She said she is a Christian but has her own religion and does not attend church.  She said she is on her last legs and is thankful for heavy duty pain medication.  It was sad to think she will die alone and no one will know until the government agency she uses checks on her.

In Sydney, President Checketts told us to be sure to see the new Star Wars movie if we wanted so we decided to do so.  We were both disappointed in the movie as we thought the first three Star Wars movies were so much better and this movie had a poor story in our opinion. It was sad for me to watch Harrison Ford try to move like a young man. He gave it a valiant effort, but I can't seem to stop thinking that he sold out for the money that they must have paid him. It even hurt my knees when I saw him struggle to run down the corridor of the starship.

This Sunday, I get to teach the Gospel Doctrine Class for the first time here. I will use this picture to illustrate the Keystone of our religion.

 Our first full blue sky in Armidale. Notice Sheila on the sidewalk in front of St. Mary's Cathedral. We walk around this Cathedral several times every day. I hope that they don't think that my name is Joshua.

Bright Blue Sky.

There is Sheila again.

And Again.

Beautiful stained glass window depicting the Outback of Australia.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015       Sheila / Rick

We are trying to create a routine for us while we are here.  We get up, say our prayer, go for a walk, eat breakfast and then cleanup for the day.  It was unseasonably cold today so I wore a sweater for the second day in a row.  We went to the church to check emails and do a few google searches we needed to do. As I will be playing the branch electronic piano/organ this Sunday, which I am not accustomed to, I also take the opportunity when we are at the church to practice. The sisters met us there and brought us an address list for the branch.  They told us they visited with a man who plays his guitar and sings in front of Coles Supermarket and is listed as a member.  They told us he says he would go to church if someone picked him up. 

After lunch we decided to see if we could find him.  We saw him just as he was closing up, putting his guitar in the store's fire extinguisher closet.  When Rick asked him if he was John, he said, “I’ve been wondering when I would meet you guys.  How about riding in a taxi with me to get my laundry and take it to my office and we can jaw a while.  Rick agreed.  John is extremely skinny and about 68 years old he told us.  I asked when he was baptized and he said in 1975 but that he stopped attending about 4 years later.  He joined with his second or third of six wives.

He does his laundry in a converted bus he owns and keeps in an RV park but does art work in a run-down apartment in a run-down neighborhood.  His place was dirty and had porn on some of his walls.  As he talked with us he told us all kinds of stories about his life, who knows if they are true.  He is obviously well read but could not in any way be considered a Christian let alone a Mormon.  He thinks he is a preacher of sorts preaching about plants with spirits, that Christ learned how to fake miracles when he stayed in the Eastern desert and that there is definitely no life after death as he has had 3 near death experiences and saw there was nothing after death.  Rick and I were eager to get away and did so as quickly as we could. The spirit in John's home seemed very dark and heavy. In the New Testament, Paul calls faithful members "children of The Light"(the Light of Christ). We look for the Light, and we love the Light. We pray that John may find the Light again at some point.  We will probably contact him again but we will not enter his home until things change. John got a taxi back to Coles and we left him there.  We will report what we experienced to the branch president.

As we talked with John in the taxi, the driver listened.  As we got out, he asked about our religion and Rick gave him a card with the temple on the front and information about LDS.org. along with our telephone number.  The driver was a Sikh from India and said he believes there is good in all religions and we need to understand one another and appreciate that good.  Maybe there is value in his taking the card.  He asked for our phone number and Rick gave it to him. 

We met Father Bernie and Sister Bernadette (no relation) who are both retired and living in our complex.  They seemed very nice.  Sister Bernadette (who is a retired Catholic nun) is helping to arrange a welcoming tea for us when everyone comes back from vacation.  Many businesses here take two weeks off during Christmas and are closed.   Sister Bernadette is from Peoria, Illinois.
We walked to McDonalds and Rick got his favorite vanilla soft serve ice cream cone for 50 cents and then back to our flat where we watched some more of the DVD documentary on the Australian outback before bed.

Because of the timing of our arrival, Christmas Eve, starting our assignment has been challenging because several families in the branch are away taking advantage of the two weeks vacation/ One of the active families is away for two more weeks.and many businesses are closed, which has slowed our getting our home life in order, i.e. internet, repairs, obtaining proper electrical converters.  

We have prayed to feel the spirit when interacting with the people here. We know that our Father in Heaven has prepared some of them to receive his truth. We have felt it from time to time and we have tried to take advantage of incidental contacts with people. We pray that we can help in the missionary effort. We have a distorted view of life here in Armidale because we have only been here during the Holiday season when most people are gone or are on vacation. Things should return to a more normal state by February 1st when school will be back in session and their summer vacation is over.
I have been listening to the Australian accent and it is difficult to get a handle on. It is like understanding English when you have one person from Boston, another from Mississippi and still another from Laverkin, Utah. Some of them have the sweet accent of Olivia Newton John and Mel Gibson, while others have the almost redneck accent of Paul Hogan and Steve Irwin. We have also heard some very proper English accents mixed with Australian. The hardest for me to understand is what I would call the outback dialect. I don’t know if it is from the outback but it is to Australian as a Scottish accent is to a London accent. I have to lean in and listen closely. I do know one thing. These people are wonderful, friendly people, and we like them.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

We arose to a beautiful sky, did our walk and then continued a walk to the local fruit market where we purchased some fruit.  It was a very clean and organized store.  We returned to our flat for breakfast and prepared for our District Training Meeting by phone.  The meeting was sweet and encouraging.  We were able to hear from other missionaries in our district.  We were instructed to be inside our flats by 5:00 p.m. New Years Eve and not to leave on New Years Day until noon.  It was suggested that we do a "temple cleaning" of our flats. The meeting lasted about an hour.  We have a dryer in the extra bedroom but it is not vented outside.  We also have a little enclosed courtyard with a clothes line which I hung some laundry on.  I really enjoy having the clothesline, something I haven't had at home for many years. 

I went through our branch list and determined the actives from the less actives and we will create a sign-up sheet to pass around Sunday asking for times we can meet with the members.  We will also schedule times to travel to the more distant areas covered by our branch to meet those members.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Years Eve with not much to report.  We shopped for food among tons of people getting ready for festivities.  We were told to be in our flat by 5:00 p.m. so we were.  About 8:00 p.m. there were wonderful fireworks clearly visible from our flat which we enjoyed.

Friday, January 1, 2016

We were told not to leave our flats until noon so we did a thorough cleaning of the flat and I finished up laundry started yesterday.  Afterwards, we went for a drive part way up Waterfall Way and then had Kentucky Fried Chicken for dinner.  As we took a walk downtown today, it was so very quiet, and few people on the streets.  Once again, most businesses were closed.  We are really looking forward to Sunday and getting into our missionary work next week.  We went through Sister Hokanson's wonderful notes about the branch members again, determining who needs a visit most. We prepared a sign-up sheet to pass around to the members Sunday to schedule our get acquainted visits.

This sign is typical of most of the signs in store windows all over town.

 The local fruit market

One walk too many or "Sheila, it may not look like I am listening, but I am".

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Our major task for today was cleaning our church. The previous senior couple left in October.  They did the weekly cleaning and we are happy to take that over.  We cleaned everything and Rick set up the chapel area for Sacrament meeting while I practiced the organ for tomorrow.  The black recliner type chair is for one of the elderly sisters who has a bad back.  It is stored in a classroom and brought out each Sunday. The building is very small but it is big enough and we are very thankful for it to meet in. There are many places on this earth where the Saints do not have it so good.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

We happily attended our branch Fast and Testimony and other meetings today, eager to meet additional branch members.  The only additional attendees were the Smith Family.  Brother Smith is in the branch presidency.  His 16 year old son, 14 year old daughter and 12 year old son attend with him.  His wife is not a member.  I admire their faithfulness.

It was a good testimony meeting with testimonies born without long pauses.  Rick's Gospel Doctrine lesson on the Book of Mormon went well with plenty of discussion.  This little branch has five sisters in Relief Society with the 14 year old daughter of President Smith's attending when the Young Women's leader is absent which she was today.  In addition to those, there were the two sister missionaries, the Relief Society President, Sister Sully and myself.

After the block, we skyped with daughter Heather to congratulate granddaughter Hannah on her baptism which was completed earlier in the day.  We were so happy that John and Natalie and girls were able to attend, when it is a challenge to drive so far with little ones but having family support is so special on these occasions.

It rained all day; a gentle, cool rain. The members say that it is unseasonably cold for this time of year. It is comparable to July in North America. Usually the temps would average about 80-85 degrees this time of year. We have actually had to put the heat on in the car as well as our flat especially early morning. We will enjoy it while it lasts.

1 comment:

  1. Sheila and Rick, thank you for sharing your exploits with us. It's good seeing you and we miss you!