"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, July 10, 2016
Monday, July 4, 2016
Sheila writes in black, Rick in blue.

Every time we skype with our children we are so thankful for the miraculous technology the Lord has blessed us with in this period of time.  It would be so hard to be on a mission and have a letter take two to three weeks to get to the U.S. and that long to get a response.

Yesterday, one sister in Relief Society mentioned that she lost her mother at the age of 20 and that her mom and been a cold and pious woman.  She said when her husband left her years ago and her parents were dead and she had three small children, she had a dream and her mother appeared to her in white robes and said, "Now you are completely alone."  After, I asked her how that made her feel and she said she had been devastated because it was true.   Another woman said when she died she was going to look for the person who could tell her why she had been sent to the earth into such a horrible family.  Situations like this do not have easy answers but I do believe that the church provides a new family and that if wards and branches function as the Savior asks, new members will feel they have a new family.  It is Elder Berger and my hope that we can help to create a warm, loving atmosphere in the branch where people with such sad pasts join together in worship each week.

We made bread today and I do mean "we".  Elder Berger did the kneading into a beautiful specimen of an elastic ball and was able to do the window pane test.  Neither of those things happen when I do bread. I need to be careful about revealing talent in the kitchen. It is like admitting that you can play the piano. When you let others know what you can do, you need to be prepared to be called to do those things. I really don't mind helping, but Sheila "owns" the kitchen. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

I must admit not having seminary and being able to sleep in is rather nice after a night of not the best sleep.  We awoke to rain and prepared for the elders to arrive at 10:00 for English training.  We had an enjoyable hour working on Elder Yang's English.  I cannot imagine how hard it must be until I ask him what a word I am teaching him is in Mandarin and when I hear his word and accent I realize how hard it would be for me to duplicate what he is saying!

Tonight we joined the community choir once again to work on "Messa di Gloria" for an August performance.  It was cold and rainy as we joined the other choir members at 7:30 pm.  The piece goes up to an A for the Sopranos and I am so impressed that women in their sixties can hit such a high note.  The Choir secretary, Ken, is a tenor and Elder Berger and he get along well.  He asked if there was a day that he could meet with Elder Berger to learn about what Mormons believe.  He sounds more intellectually interested but we are happy to spread the word in that way as well, always hoping the spirit will touch their hearts. It is fun and challenging to sing in this choir. Most of these singers are very experienced vocalists in a choir setting. This is no ward choir where people need to be coaxed to sing. These folks are ready to do battle with the piece and conquer it. The pianist who accompanies the practice is just amazing. He plays everything like he has practiced it for months but he hasn't. One of the men in the choir told me that he had been a concert pianist in his younger years and was one of the best in Australia. The music is praising God and it is inspiring to sing. When the group practices and then really starts to get it, the sound is wonderful and uplifting. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Amidst wind, rain, sleet and almost snow, we traveled to President and Sister Sully's farm to home teach.  When we set up the appointment, President Sully asked us to come at 11:00 and have lunch with them.  We saw two different herds of kangaroos as we neared their farm.  We had a wonderful time giving the message from President Monson about the pioneer spirit.  Both of the Sully's are first generation members of the church and President Sully's dad reacted in anger and had very little contact with his son after he joined the church.  They are definitely "pioneers".

Sister Sully served a South African dish, "Bobotie".  They lived in South Africa for four years because of President Sully's work in architecture for the church.  The dish was very tasty, similar to a meatloaf but much more moist with raisins and spices.  We took an apple pie which she warmed and we had that for dessert. We talked about the plan to start a branch family home evening this coming Thursday and will announce it in Sacrament meeting this week.  We had a lovely visit.

We worked on conversational phrases today and naming of pictures of day to day activities.

 Elder Kelly looks bored as Elder Yang studies English at the hand of Sister Berger.

Elder Kelly has just seen our bill for the English Class.

Elder Kelly, a Pittsburgh Steelers fan whose hometown is in Pennsylvania.

Elder Yang

Stormy winter skies in Armidale

The Catholic school across the street and the wintry sky.

Choir practice - it is held in a private girl's school named The Presbyterian Ladies College.

Out accompanist must be close to eighty years old and he is fantastic

The Director, seated, knows the music as well as if he wrote it.

People entering the Choir Room. Everybody comes early. They consider singing in a choir to be a treat and a privilege. Pictured are some of the Basses and the Altos. You can guess which is which. 

These signs are definitely something to take notice of.  Huge herds of cows think they own the road.
On our way to do home teaching, we encountered a warning of who yields to who in this situation.

A lovely old church, the Tenderton church, near to Sully's farm.

The first kangaroo we saw on our way to Sully's farm

Friday, July 8, 2016

We visited members and enjoyed bringing a message of hope to those who are struggling.  Clarksons invited us for tea (dinner) which we enjoyed very much. Tonight was rosemary chicken with vegetables and chocolate self saucing pudding which is an Australian favorite so far as we have been able to see.

Elder Berger and Brother and Sister Clarkson

rosemary chicken made with what they call "lovely legs" - a piece of chicken leg.

Roasted vegetables and potatoes.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

We skped for a quick few minutes to wish our granddaughter, Kate, a happy 7th birthday.  She is such a cutie and very excited over her birthday celebration.


Grandaughter Kate, Halloween, 2015

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Sharing and singing time in Primary is such a challenge as the children are mostly related and unaccustomed to a traditional Primary setting.  I constantly worry over how to best keep their attention and teach them something. One of the families we home teach is from the Philippines, working and going to school here.  Because of various difficult challenges, they left their baby in the Philippines with relatives until they could get to a place where one of them could watch him during half the day and one during the other and into the night, if necessary as they could not afford day care. They finally got his visa and he arrived here.  They brought him to Primary and were so excited.  His name is Isaac and he is now three years old and speaks almost no English. That is a thought provoking statement which is no doubt still in effect as the Lord continues moving forth with His work to spread the gospel throughout the world.

We had a wonderful Sacrament Meeting. President & Sister Sheen of the Sydney Temple Presidency spoke to us. They bore very strong testimonies about revelation, Heavenly guidance, and Temple work. He is an Australian whose roots go back to the convict ships and she is from mainland China and is descended from a Chinese Royal Family. They met in the Temple a few years after their spouses  had passed away and after a time, they married. This enabled them to serve a senior mission together and for him to be called into the Temple Presidency, something they could not do if they were not married. They are wonderful people. We had a good turnout today, there were 37 members there. Our usual number is 25-30. 

In our Gospel Doctrine class, Elder Berger read a quote by President Spencer W. Kimball from the April 1971 Conference Report: "There are many, many upright and faithful who live all the commandments and whose lives and prayers keep the world from destruction." That is not all I did, but I guess I was successful. As they say: "If you can just get them to remember one thing."

I stayed and practiced a piano piece for the branch talent night after church and then we joined the MacDonald family for a coconut/curry meal that was quite tasty.

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