"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 21, 2016

Sheila writes in black Rick in blue
Monday, February 15, 2016

After teaching seminary and lunch we looked for inactive member addresses and delivered a birthday card to one of them.  I can't help wondering what happened to so many people who joined the church in the 1970's and fell away.  Was it lack of fellow-shipping, pressure from family and society, too many changes in branch leaderships or just lack of faith that comes from reading scriptures, praying and being obedient.  Whatever the reason, we pray daily for guidance in bringing them back.

We met with a wonderful Filipino couple who were so sweet and prepared lovely desserts for us to eat while we visited them.  They are both working and going to school. They had to leave their two year old son in the Philippines with family as they knew bring their baby here would be too expensive for day care and they would be leaving the baby with strangers and seldom having time with him.  It was heartbreaking listening to them and I am certain that it is a daily heartache for them.  They hope to have his visa and be ready to bring him here in October.  We really enjoyed talking to  them.  They have been to the temple and feel badly that work so often interferes with their coming to church.  We are seeing a real need for a branch family home evening.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

After teaching seminary we took our 93 year old neighbor to a doctor's appointment and then left to visit less active members in Glen Innes, an hour and a half away.  As usual the scenery was beautiful.  There is so much of green farm land, lots of green trees and always the beautiful, cloud-filled skies.  I never tire of looking at the scenery when we drive.

One sister with three children talked to us on the porch but did not invite us in.  She is okay if we want to visit monthly but said she is too lazy to come to church and doesn't feel her young teenage children are interested in attending anyway.

Another sister, eighty years old, lives on her own on hundreds of acres of property.  She joined the church as a young mother and her husband did not.  She is okay with our visiting monthly as well.  It is obvious she has not spent much time in the church, attending meetings.  As we get to know her better I hope to understand the dynamics of her falling away from activity.

We met a member who asked us to take their name off the rolls of the church. We never want anyone to close the door on the Gospel and the Church like that, but I will write a letter to her telling her what she needs to do in order for her name to be removed. The tiny silver lining is that she is the northernmost member in our branch and it will cut off a few travel Ks every month. As the saying goes, "every silver lining has a cloud" and this cloud is her loss of membership.

After our visits, we traveled to Ben Lomond to have dinner with our Elder's Quorum president, Frank Benesch.  He lives on a sheep farm he is renting until he finds a farm big enough to buy.  His step-brother Paul (who is also his brother in law and is not a blood relative) was visiting and cooked a lovely lamb dinner.  They are both devoted members who work hard to do missionary work.  Elder Benesch has a very interesting life story.  He was in the army special forces for 8 years and he made lots of money owning his own business.  He loves the gospel and gets emotional and teary-eyed when he talks about the men in the Book of Mormon or Joseph Smith or the current prophet and apostles.  He calls us "yous little couple".  How are you "yous little couple?" he will ask.

He has a talking parrot that belongs to his wife. The parrot will only talk when his wife is present. Sister Benesch is working in Brisbane until she gets a job near the farm.  The parrot rides on his shoulders and screeches in decibels high enough to deafen Brother Benesch, I think.  At one point the Parrot leaned over and pecked Paul's ear with his beak hard enough to draw blood which was a huge surprise to Paul.  In the middle of our discussion about our love of the gospel, the parrot started laughing loudly.

These two men are great and mighty men of the gospel. They both have very strong testimonies of the Savior's Gospel. Both have brought many souls to Baptism. We look forward to working with them in the missionary effort.

We came upon this sign while driving on a tiny road in the "Bush". It kind of sets your mind to going, doesn't it? We drove the 3 Ks but all I saw were many birds and I assume they were wild. They certainly acted wild and made wild noises. None of the birds spoke English as far as I could tell.

Brother Frank Benesch , Brother Benesch is the one who is not green.

And again, Brother Frank Benesch

Brother Paul, minus part of his ear lobe, the Parrot, and Brother Frank Benesch

We had a great time. Who can tell if Elder Berger or Paul took the picture. Vote Now in comments. Results of the voting will be available in a fortnight or in two weeks time to you and me.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The elders attended seminary which we always enjoy.  They stayed after and talked to us about the work.  Afterward, Sister Betts and I worked on Sunday's music and Elder Berger washed our filthy car, the old fashioned way with a bucket, sponge and hose.  As Lucy is our soon to be eight in Primary, I emailed home to find out what our ward gives the kids getting baptized and was told a white towel to use for their baptism with CTR embroidered on it by Rhonda Ferguson, bless her talented soul!!  We went to Ace Embroidery and they are going to do the embroidering for us for a minimal cost which makes us very happy.  We purchased a lovely towel on sale at the mall. Rhonda is going to email the embroidery file to Ace.

We spent some time comparing our master list of branch members with a new list printed out last week and took a birthday card to a member in Uralla, spending a little time looking for an Australian hat for Elder Berger. We have been warned repeatedly to wear a hat if we do not desire to get skin cancer. It is way more prevalent here than in St George. I have a theory on that.

While Elder Berger attended his branch meeting I worked on sharing time and my next seminary lesson.  

Thursday, February 18, 2016

We enjoyed our District Training meeting by phone and I had the opportunity to do the training session on Patience from Preach My Gospel. She did a fine job.  After preparing for tomorrow's Seminary lesson walked downtown to Ace Embroidery to see if they received the embroidery file which they had and they can do it for us at the same price they quoted yesterday.  We chose purple as it is one of Lucy's favorite colors. The CTR towel looked great!

In the afternoon we had the wonderful experience of again joining the elders to teach the second discussion to the same lady we saw last week.  It was a very nice experience. She is not ready to commit to baptism but told us she would like us to be patient with her and continue to teach her.

Friday, February 19, 2916

We had lots of preparation to do in updating correct addresses and phone numbers on our branch list and I worked on sharing time and music for this coming Sunday should I need to teach it.  After lunch we traveled to our Branch President Sully's ranch to do our home teaching.  We have been assigned six families to officially home teach, separate from our regular monthly member visits. I need to apologize for a mistake in bird identification. I incorrectly referred to some beautiful white birds (see pictures a few weeks ago) as Kookaburra's. They are actually Correllas and have a laughing call also. I will get a picture of a laughing Kookaburra and put it in the blog when I can. President Sully pointed out the difference to me.

Branch president, President Sully, Elder Berger and myself

President Sully and his wife, Marion

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Cleaned the church, shopped for groceries and worked on lessons for Sunday.  I tried a new recipe with boneless, skinless chicken thighs which was very tasty, a definite keeper I will share with my family.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

It rained last night but this morning is sunny and the sky is blue.  President Sully called me to be a Primary counselor.  Today the Primary president was not there so I did singing and sharing time.  We were invited to the MacDonalds for dinner at 5:00 p.m.  The elders were also invited and we enjoyed a type of taco salad and I made apple cobbler.  Their family is a sweet family.  It is obvious they have regular Home Evenings by the comments of their daughter in Primary.  Sister MacDonald is playing the violin in a local "Show" here in Armidale and then in Sacrament meeting next week and asked me to accompany her so we ran through some songs after dinner.

We are watching an area broadcast next week and are are hoping to get some less actives to come and hear the general authorities who will be speaking via satellite.  Sister MacDonald and I will do the violin/piano number prior to the start of the broadcast.

So many of the people we have met here are searching.  They look into many religions and read books on intellectualism, reincarnation and love to talk about "the big picture".  As I have been studying the scriptures in our various preparations, and have read about the falling away in the last days I feel that it is obvious that the Pharisee/Sadducee struggle in Christ's day is still happening with different characters in the play.  Investigators and members of the church are trying to out think the prophet and apostles (see "Arm of the flesh") and believe they have a greater enlightenment and desire to tell God about it or at least tell his prophets about it.  As a young person I thought the falling away would be from polygamy's return or the return of the United Order.  I am thinking it will be neither of those but possibly unanswered questions of the members and their impatience in thinking God is taking too long to respond to their inquiries.  

There is such joy in the gospel, such a wealth of spiritual communication when seriously studying  the scriptures.  I daily thank my Heavenly Father for that knowledge. 

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