Sunday, March 31, 2013

Spring has finally arrived in Orlando, Florida!

Drum roll please, I am happy to report that frosty windows in Orlando, Florida are now
a thing of the past.
Spring has finally arrived! The weather has been in the 80's for the past three days with a light breeze and although I know that the HOT weather and humidity are probably not far behind, I am loving the warmth and sunshine.  In fact I am not the only one...
I am not sure if I am suddenly more observant or if in fact all the creepy crawlers, once hidden, are now out basking in the sun. Everywhere I turn little lizards slither by.  This little guy greeted me outside the Mission Office when we arrived for the day. Another poked his head out of the vent at the back entrance of our temporary home, but was camera shy.

 In honor of all the Florida alligators which I have heard so much about and still have not actually seen (not complaining just stating a fact) we decided to purchase a Wally Gator toothbrush holder for our new apartment. We pack up and clean bright and early Wednesday morning, April 3rd, drop our things off at our new apartment and then quickly head back to the Mission Office for work.
I can't believe I am actually saying this, but I am going to miss our little room.  It was clean, quiet and perfect for our needs at the time.

 On Friday night we had to say good bye to Uncle Barton, his Florida vacation had come to an end. His daughter, Natalie, and nephew Adam, left on Thursday morning after spending the past few days at Universal Studios so I think he was ready to relax and hang out with us old folks. We met for dinner at a Mexican restaurant by the name of Abuela's.  The funny thing is that I mentioned to Elder Busath when we arrived that I thought the word "Abuela" meant grandparent, something I learned from watching Handy Manny and Dora the Explorer with our grandchildren. Well Barton, a returned missionary from a Spanish speaking country, confirmed it! Thanks, Lucas, Mason, Jill, Dax, Cale, Jett, Charles, Thomas, William and Sienna, for helping Grandma learn a little Spanish. I wish you were here to continue to help me because the ward we live in speaks Spanish as well as English and we are actually planning to attend weekly classes given by our very own missionaries to help us better communicate with our new ward friends.

*On a side note, I just discovered that one of the young men in our ward has two cochlear implants!  According to my source he got them as a small child.  He would like to learn sign language and serve a mission one day signing to the deaf. I haven't met him yet, but he bore a sweet testimony today of his recent experience at Youth Conference even though he just had his wisdom teeth out and his face was still really swollen.

 It's Easter time!!!!

Without a single pot or pan available until next week we made use of what we had. Eggs, dye, water and vinegar, check. The eggs may not be hard boiled, but they still turned out better than I had hoped. My refrigerator and I are so happy :)

If you squint your eyes and put your nose right up to the screen (I am laughing just picturing each of you doing this) you can actually read the names on each of the eggs. Grandpa, Grandma, Esslinger's, Gibson's, Bacchus', Hudson's, Busath's and Peterson's.  Just a wonderful family of good eggs!

Even though we failed to notify the Easter Bunny of our new address,
we still had much to be grateful for.
It's Easter Sunday!
It has already been a wonderful day, and it's only half over. The weather outside is beautiful and we are thinking about packing up our roasted chicken and potato salad from Target and having a picnic at a local park. We are looking forward to skyping with our grandchildren later today and with the 3 hour time difference we may just stay inside and anxiously wait for their call.
Our church meetings today were inspiring and we actually took every opportunity to introduce ourselves and make new friends. To be honest that is not something we would have been comfortable doing just a few short weeks ago, but wearing the badge of a missionary helps you to do things you wouldn't normally do. We even had the privilege to meet with our Bishop briefly and get acquainted. The best thing is that during the course of our conversation we now have a special assignment. Six weeks ago the stake re-aligned all the ward boundaries and the Bishop wants to be sure that EVERYONE in our ward is made to feel welcomed.  Many letters were sent out informing the new ward members of the changes and inviting them to join us, but unfortunately a large number of letters were returned due to bad addresses. 
Our new job is to find those people whose names appear on the returned letters.
We are so excited, seriously, and can't think of a better way to get to know the area,
offer our support to the Bishop, and serve the Lord!
We are so blessed and are grateful for your support. Even though we miss being with our families and friends we know for a certainty that we are where we are supposed to be.
In closing, just some food for thought as we celebrate Easter.........
" He is not here, but is risen."  Luke 24:2-6
"The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it." 
The Prophet Joseph Smith

Thursday, March 28, 2013

First Transfer Week



Welcome back!

Well today is day 10 for us in the mission field. Which means that we celebrated our 1 week anniversary being here in the mission field and actually survived our first transfer week.  It was touch and go for a while, I am not going to lie, but  twenty one missionaries safely arrived, had dinner at the mission home, were interviewed and slept.  The next day they were up early at the church for an orientation, driver's training and to meet their new trainers. It is amazing to be behind the scenes to see how it all works so flawlessly. The last of the nine missionaries departing the mission after fulfilling their service commitment should have arrived home by now.  One missionary had to travel for more than 2 days to get home.

This is a picture of my desk at the Mission Office.  It looks quite calm at the end of the day, but we all know that looks can be deceiving. As I mentioned before, it is transfer week so over the course of the day my desk has been surrounded by ten to twelve missionaries at a time.  It can be a little overwhelming, but I love every minute of it. Now if I could just figure out how to deal with the phone!

This is also my desk.  We hold the mail a few days before and after transfers so that the mail and the missionary can find one another. I didn't expect it to be too bad, but it's Easter time and this is just one day's worth of packages.

Elder Busath has his very own office.  Most people would think lucky duck, but not him.  He is afraid that he might miss something :)

On Monday night we met Uncle Barton at his fabulous time share and went out for dinner at Logan's Roadhouse.  We had a great time and could have talked forever, but we have a curfew. We tried to wait and visit with our nephew, Adam Lefevre, who was on his way to spend a few days with Barton and daughter Natalie, but he must have been delayed at the airport :(

 Just some long legged friends joining us Tuesday morning at the
New Missionary Orientation Meeting.

Elder Busath enjoying his Boston Market frozen gourmet dinner of Swedish meatballs. We didn't realize how much we would miss having an oven and pots and pans. But it's only for another week and then we will be on the move again into our own apartment.

Tuesday night we attended a session at the Florida Orlando Temple (kind of a miniature Oakland Temple) and on our way home stopped for gas at RaceTrac. Elder Busath was so excited to discover that not only did it have gas, but a bazillion soda, icees and milk shake selections, hot food, cold food, you name it, RaceTrac had it. Fast Eddies in Idaho, watch out for RaceTrac!

 Pre-Easter decorations at our Value Inn room.  I am not quite sure how I am going to hard boil and color Easter eggs without a sauce pan yet, but if there is a will there is a way. I struggled through Saint Patrick's Day, without the traditional corned beef and cabbage meal, but Easter without colored eggs is just wrong!

 Guess what we got in the mail today? After spending most of the afternoon re-addressing the last 5 days of missionary mail due to transfers it was awesome to actually receive a package addressed us! Hand drawn pictures by grand daughter, Sienna, and daughter, Marianne, for our refrigerator, plastic eggs filled with jelly belly jelly beans, chocolate eggs, window stickers, a colorful Easter egg dish towel, chocolate chip cookie mix and best of all Peeps for Elder Busath all nestled on a bed of Easter grass! Maybe Florida will finally get the hint that spring has come because we have been having record lows for the past few days!

 Since we really don't have a window to put these on we thought our mirror was the next best thing.  Now we can enjoy them both morning and night.

We were so excited with our care package that we decorated our room immediately.  Okay so Martha Stewart I'm not, but as you can see it's a lot more festive around here and we truly feel loved! Thanks Hudson family we can't tell you how much we appreciate your thoughtfulness!

As Easter approaches I pray that you and your families are happy and find hope from the words of the angel on that very first Easter morning, “He is not here: for he is risen, as he said” (Matthew 28:6).

I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me,
Confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me.
I tremble to know that for me he was crucified,
That for me, a sinner, he suffered, he bled and died.
Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me
Enough to die for me!
Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me!
(“I Stand All Amazed,” Hymns, no. 193)
Wishing you a Happy Easter!  

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Days 4 Through 6 in the Mission Field

Days 4 through 6
We're back!!!
It's been a really busy couple of days and the next few days appear to be even busier.  Next week we have transfers!  What that means is that we are busily preparing for the arrival of a large number of new missionaries, straight from the Mission Training Center in Provo, Utah and are preparing to say good bye to missionaries who have served valiantly and have fulfilled their commitment to the Lord.  Surprisingly it is a bittersweet experience for us as we have already grown to love some of these missionaries preparing to go home and yet are excited about the new arrivals. We are learning just as quickly as we can what we need to do personally to make the transition smooth as silk ensuring a happy outcome for all.

This is a picture of our hallway at the Value Inn at the end of a very long day.  It looks scarier than it really is, but I thought  it looked a little like the Twilight Zone. Actually the people that we have met here have been very warm and friendly.

 On our way to drop off some important papers at the Mission President's home Friday night we decided to stop by a lake near their home that has been proven to be infested with alligators to see if we could safely catch a glimpse of one.  Well Lambie would not have anything to do with it and we had to pry her from the tree when it was time to leave. I am happy to report that there was not an alligator to be seen.

 We were driving along trying to find our way to the temple Saturday morning and all of sudden it appeared out of nowhere! Horns honking, cars passing by haphazardly and there in the distance is the Orlando Florida Temple, a sanctuary from the rest of the world. It was breath taking!

If you look closely you can see Lambie on the top right corner of the sign.



Saturday, our very 1st Preparation day, was filled with a number of activities.  First we went to visit the Orlando Temple, and the distribution center to pick up a few things for the sister missionaries. Then we stopped by Sam's Club, to pick up a few things, but mainly because it was Saturday, a tradition back home :)
After a quick stop at the apartment to drop off some things we were off to get our oil changed, by a place called Tire Kingdom, and were treated like royalty. I am not kidding.  There was going to be a brief wait while they worked on the car (as expected) so they offered to refrigerate the milk we had just purchased from the store next door and gave us an umbrella so we wouldn't get wet if it happened to rain while we walked to and from a local fast food restaurant.
 Later that afternoon we had the privilege to attend a special convert baptism of a woman who had recently moved to Florida from Arizona in search of a new beginning. What started out as a simple request for assistance one day six weeks ago when she found that she had locked her keys in her car in front of the Mission Office, became life changing. She just glowed!
And if the day couldn't get any better we spent the evening at one of the other Senior Missionary Couple's apartment, Elder and Sister Moline, from Arkansas, meeting with two additional Senior Couples and two Senior Single Sister missionaries and getting better acquainted. It was really great to hear of their experiences and I am anxious to make some of our own.
Good news! Elder Busath finally got his map of Florida and the surrounding area at a local Barnes and Noble Bookstore.  He is really a happy camper now and he spends hours memorizing every detail so that he can be ready if called to go where no man has gone before.
 I am not sure if I told you before, but the drivers in Florida are CRAZY! Seriously, worse than California if that is at all possible.  There is no such thing as defensive driving you just get in your car and pray that you will make it to you destination in one piece.  We actually got cut off by an 18 wheeler on a surface street, not even a freeway. And you don't have time to get road rage because by the time one incident is over and you plan to react another incident is sure to follow and you don't dare take your eyes off the road.

 Another interesting thing about Florida is that most of the homes, at least those that can afford it, enclose their entire patios with screens.  At first I thought it was so the alligators couldn't get in, but it is actually to keep the bugs out. I have been told that they have a real problem with mosquitoes during the summer due to all the ponds and the humidity. I can't wait :( But the good news is that the apartment that we will be moving in to in April has a little enclosed patio, so I should be safe until I venture out.


 Guess who came to Orlando for a week of rest and relaxation and met us at church? You guessed it, Uncle Barton, Steve's brother!  He decided to take a brief vacation in Orlando this week and called and made arrangements to meet us.  It was our very first week in our new ward and our Ward Conference to top it off. So while we struggled to get acclimated Uncle Barton was in heaven because he had the opportunity to speak Spanish to a number of members in our ward.  You may recall that the foreign speaking branches were recently dissolved in our Stake so everything that is said, both over the pulpit and in class, is repeated through a translator. The prayers are often offered in Spanish and the program is even printed in both Spanish and English. It was really touching to hear our new Bishop, a young, tall, red headed man stand and bear his testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel in Spanish for the first time.

The theme of the conference was based on a couple of conference talks.  One given by Elder Bednar, "Converted in the Lord", and the other, "Never Leave Him", by Elder Neil Anderson. 
As you can imagine it has been a huge undertaking to try and blend cultures together, but it is working! The spirit is so strong here and you can feel the love.  In fact I can safely say that I have never been hugged so much in my life.

One of the scriptures that really touched me today is found in Abraham 3:25, "And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them". I truly believe that the Lord has commanded the people in Orlando Florida to become a Zion people, to unite and love one another. To show the rest of the world it can be done.  I am so excited to be here at this time to help this great undertaking move forward.

On Sunday afternoon it was an overcast 72 degrees, no big surprise.  The three of us (Elder Busath, Barton and I) were just sitting around having lunch in our teeny tiny apartment when the heavens opened and it poured, and poured and poured.  The entire rainstorm lasted a total of less than 10 minutes and then it was over as though nothing had ever happened. I am told that rainstorms like that are typical here so I am not sure if I should plan to carry an umbrella everywhere I go or just tough it out like a native and look like a drown rat from time to time.

Thanks for checking in........stay tuned for more to follow soon.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Day 3 in the Mission Office

Happy Thursday, March 21, 2013! Also known as day 3.

As you can plainly see, our house is a house of order, all 13x19 feet of it.
Definitely a snap to keep clean.

 Guess who met us at our car as we prepared to leave for the Mission Office? None other than Mr. Mr. Ichabod Crane, straight from his home in the swamp in our backyard.

Once he saw that I had my camera out he stood up nice and tall so I could get a picture of him in all his glory. I suspected all along that we may have entered the Wild Kingdom and now I know for sure.

 No, it's actually not our preparation day, however, I am proud to say that our calendar is beginning to fill up :) so we have to use our time wisely and get some of our chores done early to leave enough time for the important things.

We had our first dinner appointment tonight! The Elders assigned to the Young Single Adult (YSA)Ward were invited to dinner at the new YSA Relief Society President's apartment along with her roommate and her sister. Mission rules being what they are the Elders asked us to join them. The food, homemade vegetable wraps and noodles, was delicious and the discussion following lively and thought provoking. I really am loving this by the way.

We have another dinner appointment scheduled for tomorrow night, one on Saturday night and another on Sunday night so we are really feeling the southern hospitality here

Fun facts from Florida:

A sure way to tell if an alligator is inhabiting a particular pond is to see if there are ducks swimming nearby.  If you don't see a duck it means that the alligator ate them! Sad but true.

Most of the street names in the area are named after famous astronauts, who knew?

A town nearby by the name Kissimmee is not pronounced the way it looks. It's not Kiss me, it's Kezmee.  It you pronounced it wrong it's a sure sign you are an out of towner :)

It just gets better and better.

Elder Busath and I are feeling more confident each day as we learn our various responsibilities and the interaction we have had with the office staff and the young missionaries thus far has been priceless.

Thanks for stopping by to check on us.  We will keep you posted...

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Tennessee to Florida!

Did you miss us?  Well as you can see we now have WiFi (hooray) and I have lots to share...
On Monday, March 18th we left Nashville Tennessee where it was a pleasant 65 degrees at 8:00 am. We figured that we might be getting closer to our final destination because of the warm weather, but we were not prepared for the torrential rain, thunder and lightening storm. We had heard that there was a big storm brewing and fortunately it appears that we may have missed the worst of it.

Although we lost another hour in Georgia this sign really put a smile on our face!

 Just a random picture to help you visualize what the Interstates looked like.  Trees as far as the eye can see all the way from Missouri to Georgia. I though Nashville was a big city, but it doesn't hold a candle to Georgia.  The strange thing about Georgia is that on one hand Georgia is all about the sky scrapers and big business then you come across signs reminding you of their southern folklore like "Home of Steven Foster" and "Suwannee River". You know the song, "Way down upon the Suwannee River, far, far, away...well if you ever wondered where it is located it is right here in Georgia.
 As I mentioned earlier the Interstate in Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia looked very much the same Zzz. The funny thing is they also had much more in common. 18 wheelers were everywhere, Firework manufacturers every few miles, McDonald's, 7-11 Stores and Dunkin Donuts. Seriously they have as many Dunkin Donuts as California has Starbucks.
 One of our instructor's at the MTC raved about the food at Zaxby's so we stopped to give it a try. One word for it, delicious!

We made it!!! 95 degrees at 6:00 pm, YES!

Look familiar? Welcome to Orlando, Florida....

I realize that it may appear that we are obsessed with food, but when you are on the road for days with few stops except to sleep, eat and well, you get the point, food becomes something to look forward to, a break and a comfort.  As you can see Hardee's = Carl's Jr. They taste the same to me.


Below are pictures of our new home away from home for the next two weeks. A double bed, a sink, a microwave, a stove top and a bulletin board, what more could we want?

Actually there was a brief time that we weren't so sure we had a place to call home.

 For those of you who don't have access to a magnifying class on our bulletin board we have posted the Living Christ and a special card that says, "Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant".  Thanks Janie!

 Okay so long story somewhat short...Because we arrived a day early our reserved room wasn't ready so they had to put us on a smoking floor.  Well we were exhausted after 12 hours on the road so we agreed and held our breath as we literally ran from the elevator to the room, hoping the smell got better.  It did but just a little. We both woke up with sore throats and were glad that we would be moving to a non smoking floor soon. We packed up our stuff, loaded it in the car, picked up a dozen Dunkin Donuts (just to make a good impression) and left for the Mission Office to meet with the Mission President, President Hall and his wife. The hotel agreed to call us when our room was ready, sometime after 12:00 noon. Noon came and went and no word.  Finally around 1:00 we called to see when we could move in.  Well somehow lines got crossed and they no longer had a non smoking room for us.  We were devastated!  We couldn't stay another night in a smoking room and were desperate to find another alternative.  So we hit the streets. After the second hotel we stopped at we soon realized that we were in big trouble.  Not only were we totally lost, but every hotel in the area was booked due to Spring Break.  In fact at one hotel, an off duty police officer instructed us to please follow him.  Apparently we were in a very bad section of town and he would show us to a safer place to find accommodations. We did follow him as advised, but the results were the same, there was no room at the Inn. What could we do?  Then it suddenly occurred to us.  We needed help and we needed it now. The only person who could provide the help we needed in the time frame necessary was the Lord. So I said a silent prayer as we  arrived at our original hotel, to request a refund with a positive attitude. (We were missionaries after all). If I ever had the slightest doubt about the Lord hearing and answering our prayers I didn't any longer.  The clerk cheerfully greeted us as we walked in and in the course of the conversation she mentioned how sorry she was that they didn't have a room on the first floor for us because someone had decided to extend their stay.  We asked her why we needed to be on the first floor and she looked at us strangely and said she thought that was the problem.  We assured her that we would be happy with any non smoking room and she suddenly remembered a room on the second floor that had just now become available.  When I say just now I mean the kitchen floors and carpet were still wet from being cleaned.  We ran up the stairs to take a quick peek, and actually ran in to the cleaning crew just locking up. It was perfect!  Although we had to pile everything on the kitchen floor for the night because the carpets were still wet, we had a bed and we were happy.

 Our backyard.  Seriously. It is actually a swamp where people mysteriously appear with fishing poles in hand.  I haven't seen an alligator yet, but have been told, by more than one person here, that the little ones won't hurt you. How big a "little one" is I don't even want to know.


 Wednesday morning reporting for duty at the Mission Office!!! There are currently two other Senior Couples who serve in the Mission Office, Elder and Sister Geb's from Wyoming and Elder and Sister Parker, from Utah.  The Parker's are scheduled to go home on April 4th and so we will be taking over their duties. We received such a warm welcome here we already feel like family.
We decided to "advance" some of the important places that we will be frequenting in the future.  You know Wall-Mart, Target, etc. just kidding. This is a picture of the Pleasant Hills Ward of which we have been assigned. We heard that it was Ward Conference this Sunday so we really wanted to take the opportunity to meet the Bishop and introduce ourselves before all the Stake visitors descended upon him.  Unfortunately we couldn't locate our new Bishop, but we did run in to two of our very own missionaries assigned to the Young Single Adult Ward and assisted a family trying to find the Stake President to have their recently returned missionary daughter released.
Did you noticed the reference, "our missionaries"?  Well the word is out in the mission that we are here and everyone is anxious to get to know us. Do I believe it, absolutely.  Just as much as we are anxious to get to know each one of them. We are already learning a lot and once Elder Busath gets his bearings we will try do a little more sight seeing in between our office assignment and ward responsibilities.
I am so happy to be here and am anxious to get to get to know and love the people in Florida!!!
Just a post script-Our new Stake recently (less than 6 months ago) dissolved all the foreign speaking branches and everyone is now part of the neighborhood wards. Everyone appears to be excited about the change, but realizes that it will take some time to make the necessary adjustments. What a wonderful time to be here and assist in making this transition a model for the rest of these United States. 
Did I tell you how much I love being here?