"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, March 6, 2016
Monday, February 29, 2016

Sheila writes in black, Rick in blue.

After early morning seminary, discussion on Abraham's instruction on the planets, and his fore ordination we traveled to Ben Lomond in search of a member on our branch list that is less active, and probably hasn't been to church for many years.  As we went down a country road surrounded by yellow wild flowers and finally drove into the little town of Ben Lomond, I was struck, as is the case every once in a while, by a feeling of nostalgia for the town of Ashton, Idaho, where I grew up.

                                      On our way home, we stopped at brother Benesch's ranch

Lots of yellow flowers along the backroads

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

After Seminary we joined the Elders to teach the third discussion to their investigator.  She is divorced with a teenager and is searching. The teenager is actually her son. I think that if she actually divorced a teenager, she gave up way too early.  She has a very appealing personality and has been a joy to talk with.  Today the spirit was strong and we pray for her to feel and understand what she is feeling and why. We intended to teach her the third lesson "The Gospel of Jesus Christ" but we ended up spending about an hour answering her questions about life and the Gospel, and also taught her how the answers were to be found through prayer, the scriptures, and the words of the living Prophets.

After we finished, we headed down the road for a place called Rim of the World, in the vicinity of a small town called Ebor, about 110 Km east.  We hope to find a person on the branch records that is supposed to live at a place called Rim of the World.  We discovered the road we were on eventually goes into a Rain Forest and much of the area we saw was beautiful and filled with ferns and trees we haven't seen before.  We stopped for a look at Ebor Falls which were beautiful.

When Elder Berger noticed a sign indicating a turn off to a Trout Hatchery, he turned to check it out and we had an enjoyable self-guided tour of the hatchery.  They breed and raise trout for many of the fishing clubs throughout  Australia.  One of the signs by a trout pond warned against "swooping" magpies.  It reminded me that at the MTC one of the sister missionaries from Australia had warned me that the magpie birds of Australia will swoop down and attack you if they feel that their nest is threatened.  The area around our flat is filled with the magpies and I haven't seen any come at me yet. We do have another 20 months to live here so there is plenty of time left for the swooping Magpies to swoop.

There is no shortage of blow flies in most of the areas we have visited since coming to Armidale.  For some reason, maybe it is his white shirt, they "love" Elder Berger.  Believe me, the feeling is not reciprocated and he is on the attack swatting whenever they appear.  At the trout hatchery, they were especially annoying and at one time I counted six flies on his shirt and three hanging on the flaps of his back pockets on his slacks.  It makes me laugh. The laughing only increases the pain inflicted due to the aggressiveness of these biting flies.

Out car has touchy brakes and most of the country roads are extremely narrow so much of the time, at least on my side of the auto, I feel like I am on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride at Disneyland.  Even on these narrow roads, the speed is 100 km/hr or about 61 mph and I know that at one point the road was very narrow and we passed a semi coming the other way and it seemed as though I heard our door handles click against his rig as he went past. We stopped in Ebor to ask directions to Rim of the World and were told it was a tract of private property that several people purchased to build  homes.  We asked directions from the waitress in a little cafe and then we purchased a bacon and tomato sandwich on Turkish bread to split for our late lunch and ate on our way out into "the Bush".

Eventually we turned down a country road that reminded me of England in its dense, green foliage and ferns.  After awhile it started feeling a bit eerie to me and I stopped feeling really safe.  Sister Berger held her head out of the window to see if she could hear "Dueling Banjos". We finally found a woman on a farm with green houses, loose chickens, barking dogs and warning signs as to it being private property.  When we asked her about our branch member and Rim of the World she told us it was no longer possible to get to Rim of the World and that she knew for sure the person whose name we asked about did not live there. Jesus told us that we should leave the ninety and nine and seek for the one so that is what we did. We have had success before in doing this. We had no other way to contact this person except to physically go there so we did just that. Unfortunately, this person was no longer there and we were unable to get any other information. I guess that some would say that we wasted 3 hours of our day but we met some nice people and were able to witness again the grand beauty of God's creation. 

One more less active member to cross off of our Branch membership list, but it was a beautiful ride.

These are the Upper Ebor Falls


This is the Lower Ebor Falls

Skinny Elder Berger (She told me to stand up straight and "suck in that gut")

The $5 bill reappears!

       The Jack Lizard is known for its perfect posture, helping to camouflage itself  among plants

See the reflection of Elder Berger with the trout tank

See the reflection of Sister Berger taking a picture of the trout tank

Feeding the Fish

Moss covered tree

Selfie on the Ebor George trail

 Part of the rainforest on the way to "Rim of the World"

More Jacklizard

The Ebor George Rainforest

Closer view of Lower Ebor Falls

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Seminary, preparation and attempts to communicate and/or find some names on the branch list. Tonight both myself and Elder Berger attended the branch/ ward council meeting.  President Sully has a sincere desire to help all of those within his branch and it is a challenge because of the huge distance within the boundaries of the Armidale branch. Our Friend and Branch member, Brother Jackman, from Wallangra, passed away on Monday. At branch council we remembered him and had some discussion of his funeral. We talked about meeting him during our first visit to the Jackmans in January. He will be buried on the family compound at the Jackman farm on March 11th. We will be attending along with some of the members in the branch. The farm is about a three hour drive from here. The branch boundaries are rather large and sparsely populated with members.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

The elders and Sister Betts attended seminary this morning, along with our students so I decided to provide breakfast: yogurt parfaits, cinnamon apple muffins, juice and pastries.  I think it was enjoyable for everyone.  The lesson went well and no one fell asleep during my lesson, a very good sign.

We enjoyed another discussion with the elders and their female investigator.  She asks sincere questions and is very likable.  She said she would come to church this coming Sunday and as I play the organ, Elder Peterson said he would fill in for me so that I could look for her and sit by her.

After our meeting with the elders we went back to the flat to hook up by phone to our District Training Meeting which was very worthwhile as always. It is interesting to listen to the missionaries sing a hymn over the phone without accompaniment. What they may lack in tonal accuracy they make up for in enthusiasm.  Many times the melody is almost unrecognizable, sometimes approaching a Gershwin-like dissonance without the sweet relief of a resolution. At least we have the inspired text and the Spirit still testifies to me.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Today, in seminary, I taught the story of the three holy men who told Abraham and Sarah they would have their own child and then told them they were going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah.  It wasn't my favorite lesson but felt the spirit in stressing that with God all things are possible but we may have to "wait upon the Lord" at times before our prayers are answered.

We joined the elders to teach a less active sister who has four children.  She has original Aboriginal blood and was interesting to talk to,  Her great grandfather lived to be 114 years old and worked until he was 100, stopping only because he went blind.  She has a five year old daughter and I suggested she would love Primary and would really be appreciated as there are only two five-year-olds in our primary.  She said she would come this Sunday.  That puts pressure on me to make sure there is an entertaining, meaningful sharing time and music time should she attend.

We took some personal time to listen to the Republican debate which was aired live over our computer.  The political atmosphere of the election to come is lacking in class and clear truth.  My prayers include a plea that our country survives. We all have our favorites in this race and our hope that the best people will prevail. The Australians refer to the current American political cycle as a "Circus" and they are not far off. The current scenario would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. From Socialist Bernie to Populist Trump to ultra conservative Cruz we seem to cover the spectrum. I hope that the citizens vote carefully and not vote like it is a high school prom election.

Brother and Sister Clarkson invited us to dinner again to taste lamb after she heard me say I hadn't tasted lamb.  She is a good cook and so sweet to want to feed the missionaries, the seniors as well as the elders. We had a lovely visit and meal.  

After dinner picture with the Clarksons.

Saturday, March 4, 2016

After cleaning the church and going through the Primary closet looking for music helps, we decided to take the rest of the day as a preparation day and enjoyed a drive with a quick stop at Sister Styles to set up our home teaching appointment this week.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Elder Berger's birthday spent just as he likes, with little attention directed his way.  We had a wonderful Fast and Testimony meeting.  Our investigator sister that the elders have been having us visit when they teach the discussions, attended church.  In hopes that she would, I arranged for Elder Peterson to fill in at the organ so that I could sit with her and help her understand Fast and Testimony meeting so I was thrilled that she attended.  She seemed to really enjoy the meeting and Elder Berger's Gospel Doctrine lesson on 2nd Nephi 6-10. We spent most of the lesson in the 9th chapter. I don't know how anyone could read this chapter and not believe that this is a Divinely Inspired Book. The teachings of Jacob lead us to follow the Savior and he is very specific on how we need to behave and what we are required to do. He also tells us the results of disobedience if we choose that path or just procrastinate the day of our repentance. She was on a tight schedule and was not able to stay for Relief Society.  When we visit her this week we hope that her attendance will have raised some questions that we can answer.

Another investigator the elders have been talking with also attended and Brother Hoffman brought a friend from work who is not a member. We have several members who are struggling right now and they all came as well.  All in all it was a missionary meeting and the spirit was so very strong.  It was a lovely experience for me. Branch President Sully delivered a powerful testimony of his conversion as he related the story of two Elders knocking on his door years ago. It was spiritual and touching and the investigators were listening intently.

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