"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 February 14, 2016

Sheila writes in black, Rick in blue
Monday, February 8, 2016

In Seminary we are discussing Moses and Genesis and in my class tomorrow I wanted to share that whenever I  hear people talk about life on earth coming from a big bang without involvement from God, I think about all of the non-essential things on the earth that bless our life that seem to serve no purpose other than to bring us joy.  I clipped some of the roses from the hedge by our flat and took them as an illustration of one of those things.

In Australia, schools require uniforms and each morning on my walk I see the kids coming to the private Catholic School dressed in these cute uniforms.  They all wear their hats religiously.  The thin ozone layer in this country and the high altitude of Armidale result in lots of melanomas.

These cute kids were happy to pose for me.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Today Seminary seemed to have a great spirit with good discussion.  Sam loves Star Trek Next Generation and once I told him I was an original "Trekie" we had something in common.  I managed to find a good reason for bringing up the concept of a Prime Directive.

We ran to the store for some basics and walked by the doughnut display we see every time we shop.  After, we took a ride to Dangar Falls (pronounced Dan-Gar) which is, we are finding out, a waterless experience in most cases.  One must need to view the falls in the middle of a rainstorm, much like the Virgin River Gorge water falls.

Once home we did our February Home Teaching/Visiting Teaching visit with Sister Fenton.

No Dear, the falls are behind you.

Donuts are very expensive here. This display is an average price that we have seen. Even accounting for the exchange rate they still come to about $2.60 US each. I'm glad that we do not have a donut habit. Needless to say, we cannot afford to develop one.

Sheila with Sister Fenton, our Gospel Doctrine Class President.

Wednesday, February 12, 2016

After Seminary, a walk, and food preparation, Elder Berger dropped me off at the church for the Relief Society "event" as they called it.  Everyone brought something to eat and a show and tell.  Two of the sisters make gorgeous quilts, one knits, one crochets and one does scrap booking.  I asked her if she used Stampin' Up! as I worked with that company at Jones Waldo and she said yes, they were definitely the best products.

One sister brought "savorys" which turned out to be buttermilk biscuits she referred to as scones with blackberry jam and thick cream.  Cream is often used rather than butter here.  I think all of the seven attendees enjoyed themselves.

After the "event" we went looking for a sister on our branch list in Wollomombi.  It was a beautiful ride and we stopped to look at the waterfall there.  We found the address but the two houses on the property were vacant.  

After dinner Elder Berger went to Branch Presidency meeting and I prepared for tomorrow's Seminary lesson.

Views in and around Wollomombi.

Our little, noisy Toyota.

I like to call these the three witnesses - witnesses to the time when this area was inhabited by Aboriginals fleeing the persecution of settlers.  The area is full of deep gorges and steep inclines, not a wonderful place to try to live.

These fireplaces with their chimneys were once attached to a house. The house burned down but these structures, which by definition are fireproof, did not.

Wollomombi Gorge.

The Aboriginals lived in these gorges, how very difficult it must have been.

The Falls.

This Photograph is one of the pictures that are required if you are a tourist. I guess it proves in some way that you really are here. Don't get me started.

Wednesday Late Night, Feb. 10,2016

Tonight was the first perfectly clear night that we have had since we got to Australia. I just got back after Branch Presidency meeting and at last I was able to go outside and look at and actually experience the clear night sky and see the stars. I would include a picture but I couldn't get a good one. Alright, now I'm getting started. Sometimes I wonder how important a "sense of place" is. Does it really matter where we are in this world, geographically speaking.  As you know (or should know unless you live in LaVerkin), in theory at least, and now for sure, the stars that can be seen in the southern hemisphere are different than the ones that we can see at home. I was able to identify the Southern Cross constellation so I am finally sure that I am actually down under. I have to admit, (and if you are a psychiatrist STOP reading this NOW) that I needed to see this to prove to myself that I actually am on this continent. I have seen the movie "Truman" and all of this could be an elaborate ruse. Everyone would get a kick out of that, wouldn't they. They could take me somewhere that is similar in appearance and climate and teach everyone to say "G'day" and "How ya going" with that cool Australian accent. I really have no personal evidence, until now, that the funny looking Opera House really is in Sydney. You could issue everyone Aussie money and raise the prices on donuts. I guess that you could even get everyone to drive on the left and move the steering wheels to the right, Kangaroos can be seen in Zoos all over the world and some could be planted in the wild.  But after all of this, even you have to admit that it is very hard to "fake" the night sky or the stars or the sun and moon above (not to mention the wind and rain). Yeah, I know that they did it in "Truman" but he was kind of an idiot, wasn't he? Plus, I have driven over many bridges and gone a hundred miles in every direction and that would be one BIG dome. Okay, I will settle down and accept the fact that I am 8000 miles from home and get on with this wonderfully authentic experience. I am, however, going to wait for another clear night to verify these alleged facts. In the mouths of  2 or 3 witnesses, you know. Well, all this is just food for thought, so eat up, my friends.

 I am getting a little tired now, so I am going to put the finishing touches on my Seminary lesson, we will say our prayers, and we will hit the sack. Rick

Thursday, February 11, 2016

After teaching Seminary, with the elders in attendance, we went back to the flat where I prepared visuals to teach songs in Primary Sunday.  In the afternoon we went with the elders to teach a single lady the first discussion.  She was smart and very friendly.  She said she had been thinking lots about religion the last while.  She is in the nursing program at the University of New England and has a seventeen year old son who says he is an atheist.  She said her biggest concern right now is influencing him to change his mind.  We had a lovely time sharing the experience and the spirit that was there.  This was the first time I have had this type of missionary experience and it was wonderful.

Once finished, we headed for the Old Gostwyck Road (so glad to have GPS and our Tom/Tom,  I would have found it anyway) to find a less active branch member who is having a birthday today.  We found him and he was so appreciative of the birthday card and cookies.  He said he knows they should be in church and really want to get their lives together and return to activity.  We felt good about our visit.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Today after Seminary we joined with the elders and took them to meet the Bateman family in Kingstown.  I took them snicker-doodle cookies that I made and the Elders taught the Plan of Salvation lesson.  Again and again we think about how hard it would be to live an hour's drive from the church.  We had an enjoyable visit and their kids loved the cookies.  Brother Bateman would probably self identify as a survivalist if he lived in the U.S. He knows the political systems of the world very well. He follows politics in the U.S. and  has opinions on the presidential candidates who are running. He is concerned about privacy and lives way out in the bush. I saw several kangaroos on the way to their house and we saw a very large goanna lizard (about 30' to 36' long) in the road a few kilometers away. The Condies have seen much larger lizards in Sri Lanka but this one seemed huge to us.

We enjoyed good conversation with the elders to and from our appointment.  Once home all of us went to a sister's home where Elder Berger and Elder Kehlor gave her a blessing.  She is struggling with depression and a weak immune system keeping her sick much of the time. We pray for this sister because she could be a great influence in our branch. She is very smart and could really add to the discussions in our classes. She would be a great teacher.

Saturday, February 13, 2017

Not much to report today.  We spent about 3 hours cleaning the church, we cleaned our flat and did our grocery shopping, I guess about half a Preparation day.  We both worked on lessons and I worked on Primary music and sharing time.  We each prepare 5 Seminary lessons every fortnight ( that is 2 weeks for LaVerkinites, we take turns teaching every other day, Sheila teaches the odd numbered lessons and I teach the evens) and I teach Gospel Doctrine every Sunday. It is hard for me to keep the lessons straight in my mind when we are juggling so many at once. I am afraid that I will mix lessons and name Enoch as Nephi's brother in law via Ishmael. It was Shadrach, Lemuel and Abednego in the fiery furnace, wasn't it.

Sunday, February 14, 2017

Happy Valentines Day!
Today President Mackie from our District Presidency spoke.  He made a very good comment on how to preserve our testimonies, taken from previous talks of the prophets and/or apostles.  He said "Hold fast to what you know, not to your doubts". Don't doubt what you know. doubt what you doubt. First, listen to the Holy Ghost; second, study the scriptures; third, follow the living prophets, In this day with so much social media throwing comments that can not be verified on the web and so much that one needs to wade through with great effort in order to "maybe" determine the truth, everyone needs to treasure and protect their testimonies. 

The Primary President left early with a child complaining about stomachache so I did sharing time and music which worked out fine.  They are sweet children.  Lucy asked me if we would substitute for her grandparents, who live five hours away and can't come to grandparent's day at her school, and I told her we would love to.   

After we finished our Missionary work for the day, we returned to our flat and I prepared two very nice porterhouse steaks for our Valentines day dinner. Sheila said they were delicious.  

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