Friday, April 26, 2013

Finding Joy in the Journey April 22nd through April 26, 2013

First a little mission history to get us started...

On November 1, 1960 the Florida Mission was created out of the Southern States Mission, with Elder Karl R. Lyman as the first mission president. The original Florida Mission was divided into the Florida South Mission (July 1, 1971), then later into the Ft. Lauderdale Mission (June 1974). The Tampa Mission was created in 1976; and the Jacksonville Mission was created in July 1987.  Then almost 40 years after the original mission was created in Florida, the  Florida Orlando Mission was created from the Florida Jacksonville, Tampa and Ft. Lauderdale Missions on July 1998.
Which brings us up to date. 

On Tuesday we received new computers in the office today in preparation of our new Mission President, Michael Berry, due July 1, 2013. I don’t know about you, but I have a love hate relationship with computers.  I admit that sometimes I can’t live without them, but when they don’t obey my commands (or read my mind) then I am absolutely convinced that I can live without them.  My old computer had some issues I won’t lie and was more than ready to be relieved of its duties.  But my new computer is like a small child, anxious to be of service but with so many safety measures installed it takes me FOREVER to maneuver from here to there because I am constantly being required to tell it what I need it to do. Yet it has questions and more questions and then to top it off there are a few reports that I no longer have access to.  So long story short some of my work is speeding along quite nicely for a change, while other work is getting backlogged until I can locate the right person with the proper authority to re-install the programs that I need.
This little fellow appeared out of nowhere on our office doorstep.  He actually did poke his head out eventually and scooted away, but he kept tucked in fearful of the unknown for hours, which reminds me of our recent Relief Society Meeting.

On Tuesday at Relief Society we gathered together to watch the movie, “The Other Side of Heaven.”  It is the story of Elder Groberg and his experiences as a missionary on the island of Tonga.  Well watching the movie and getting better acquainted with the sisters in the ward would have been a good enough reason to attend, but what made it so special was that the movie was in English with Spanish subtitles! If you recall in one of our previous blogs our stake recently closed all the Spanish speaking branches and now we are all one big happy family ward. Everything and I mean everything is in English and in Spanish.  The programs, the hymns, even the lessons.  It does take some getting used to, but one nice benefit is that Sacrament talks and lessons have to be much shorter to allow time for the material presented to be translated.  Another benefit is that it causes you to truly become humble and to really appreciate the effort of the one conducting or teaching the lesson. No more spoon fed lessons.  You really have to seek the spirit if you want to receive the message the way that was meant to be received.  I for one absolutely love it!  But maybe it’s because I have always had to rely on my heart instead of my head (or ears depending on who you ask) to receive instruction and inspiration. Life truly is a series of decisions and our challenge is to endure the consequences of our decisions-come what may. Unfortunately many English speaking sisters appeared to have had other plans that night so Relief Society was attended mainly by the Spanish speaking sisters.  I can only say that it was their loss.

Thursday-We had the privilege to attend a mission wide conference presided by our new Area General Authority, Elder Ulisses Soares, one of the seven Presidents of the Seventy and currently assigned to the North America Southeast area and over 17 missions.

Our new Senior Missionary District!
From left to right Sister Grant from Mesquite, Nevada, her companion Sister Stewart from Payson, Utah, Elder and Sister Gebs from Evanston, Wyoming, Elder and Sister Moline from Greenbriar, Arkansas, Elder Busath and me, Elder and Sister Sherwood from Kirtland, New Mexico, Elder and Sister Crismon from Orem, Utah, Elder and Sister Marble from Clearfield, Utah and Elder and Sister Bevans from South Western Alberta Canada.
We got mail!!!
The Gibson family sent us a care package today and to say that we were surprised would be an understatement.  I have to say it was almost like Christmas because Elder Busath drove me crazy begging to open it before we got home!

Once we stepped through the door there was no stopping him and when all was said and done we really couldn't decide what items we liked the best.  The letters from our Grand kids, Lucas, Mason and Jill, the cookie mix, the little 3 Musketeer candy bars and Hot Tamales (thanks Lucas), the battery operated fans or the little white board and sticky notes. I can say that every one of the items will be put to great use and I can't wait to decorate my desk with the sticky notes.
I don't think the little 3 Musketeer bars are going to last until tomorrow though :)
Thanks Gibson family we loved the package and for you thinking of us!
In closing I just wanted to share a few things that we learned at our recent mission conference with Elder Soares:
Our Mission President, President Hall, began the conference on a powerful note with inspiring counsel, “As a mission we are all doing a good job, but we are still not living up to our full potential. We all have the faith to do the work, but we need to recognize the power that we have been given and to get on our knees, ask for miracles and then make them happen.”
One of the first things that Elder Soares mentioned that immediately touched my heart is how great a calling it is to be a missionary!  He testified that every one of us in the chapel that morning had been called to this mission by a prophet of God.  That we needed to strive to fulfill what is expected of us.  We are a trusted representative of Jesus Christ-do not fail! 
Since October 2012 30,000 missionaries have been called to serve.

Elder Soares also admonished us not to be disappointed at having been called on a stateside mission rather than to a mission in far away country.  He made it clear that the church in the United States supports the world! That the gospel needs to grow and flourish here in the United States first so that it and we can support the whole world.
Other words of wisdom from his inspired counsel:
  • D&C 39:13-“Thou art called to labor in my vineyard, and to build up my church, and to bring forth Zion, that it may rejoice upon the hills and flourish”. (Labor and flourish-build and edify)

  • Moses 3:5- And every plant in the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew.  The Lord planned before he acted and we must follow His example.
  • If you do not plan, you plan to fail!
  • By His grace we can do anything, after we have shown our commitment!

  • Success is measured by your commitment and your commitment is where your heart is. We must be willing to be humble, and willing to do the hard things that are asked of us.

  • Missionary work is happiness.
  • We need to find joy in the journey (President Thomas S. Monson)
We are truly loving this journey we are on and enjoy you being along for the ride!
Until next time.........






Sunday, April 21, 2013

Viewer Discretion is Advised


As the title suggests some of the content of this post may be a little creepy and a little long, but please remember (Janie) they are only pictures :>

This week was a particular busy one in the mission field as Elder Busath and Elder Gebs attempted to locate numerous apartments for the incoming missionaries. The fun part is always outfitting the apartments with the necessities.  Beds, dressers, table, chairs, white board, dishes, etc.  Once the apartments are approved and secured then we reach out to the neighboring wards (congregations) and ask the members for their help in donating the needed items. It's exciting to see all the pieces of the puzzle slowly come together.

I am in the midst of office cross training so that when Elder and Sister Gebs are released in September I can take care of anything that might arise in the office. We haven't been advised of another couple being called to serve as their replacement yet, and it's still early, but it is always better to be prepared just in case.

Monday night we learned that our good neighbors, the Gebs, had their front door damaged by a thwarted break in attempt. Fortunately the bad guys didn't gain access into their apartment, but it's sad that we have to constantly be on guard from now on.  Ignorance was truly bliss. On a lighter note we actually heard of the attempted break in while we were doing some price comparisons for the new missionary apartments at Lowe's. So after hearing the news Elder Busath immediately purchased some long screws, drove to the Mission Office and grabbed a drill and then proceeded to knock on all the senior missionary doors in our complex (after 8:30 pm I might add) offering to secure the dead bolts on their doors with longer screws.  He looked a little like Rambo as he toted his drill like a firearm and I can tell you he was definitely in his element.

In the book of Enos 1:12 in the Book of Mormon it states, "And it came to pass that after I had prayed and labored with all diligence, the Lord said unto me; I will grant unto thee according to thy desires because of thy faith." I had been concerned that we still had too much time on our hands and wanted to do more...well be careful what you ask for.

Late Wednesday night our Bishop texted us and asked if we would be willing to speak in Sacrament Meeting on Sunday.  The topics being the Restoration of the Gospel and the Priesthood.  We readily agreed and scurried around excitedly to locate just the right reference materials to use in preparing our talks.  Just when we thought we had a handle on our various subject material, late Thursday night the Bishop texted us again and asked if he could change our assignment so that I would speak on the Apostasy and Elder Busath would speak on the Restoration. Like a good sport I handed over my notes to Elder Busath for his review and started over.

Friday night we had the awesome opportunity to meet at the Mission President's home for dinner with all of the senior missionaries. In our mission there are 10 senior missionary couples, including the Mission President and his wife, and two senior single sisters. It was great to meet some for the very first time and to get better acquainted with those we had met briefly before. The activity also served as an informal farewell to the Crismon's from Orem, Utah who will be released the 6th of May, and to one of our senior single sisters, Sister Grant, who will be released in July. At the meeting the President gave us an update on the status of the mission, the news about the bigger leadership roles sister missionaries would be playing, timely advice about NOT "mothering" the missionaries because we will be denying them the opportunity to struggle, learn and grow and then announced that he would be creating a new Senior Missionary District. 

In the past the senior missionaries met with an assigned district composed of 6 to 8 young sisters and elders, now we would have our very own district specifically to address our needs. Everyone was so excited to hear the news and immediately began asking questions of the President.  It was at that time that the President also announced that Elder Busath had been called to serve as the new district leader. Elder Busath was actually called late Thursday afternoon so we spent some time Friday morning putting together a roster of the senior missionaries and a proposed calendar for their review. We plan to meet once a week and rotate locations.  We also plan to schedule monthly temple trips and a monthly excursion to a local tourist trap. A few of our senior couples live quite a distance away so we hope to get their help and plan activities in their neck of the woods from time to time. We have an Area Seventy visiting the mission on Thursday morning and we are all invited to attend a meeting he is presiding over so we hope to get together briefly after that to firm up our dates. I am so excited to help Elder Busath make this new district a time for strengthening testimonies and building eternal friendships.

This is a view from across the street of the Mission President's home. Five big fat turkey's munching on the lawn, one ran into the street and then he was gone.  Four big fat turkey's...
Okay so be warned. On Saturday, our "Preparation Day" we decided to play tourist.  After finishing our exercise routine of walking around the high school track a couple times, cleaning the apartment and washing clothes we ventured out to Gatorland (just down the street and around the corner) to see real live alligators up close. Fortunately for us, our utilities bill qualified us as official residents so we got in for half price! The other good news is that our camera decided to die just as we tried to capture our first Kodak moment. Who knew that cameras were afraid of alligators? Luckily I had my new iphone handy so basically it paid for itself today.
And you thought I was kidding...

 As you can clearly see alligators come in all shapes and sizes. They appear so calm, almost harmless, but don't let those toothy smiles fool you.

This is a picture of two gators being fed chicken parts, and let me just say that they (the alligators)didn't hesitate for one minute and ate the chicken in one maybe two bites.

These workers were trying to convince the alligators to jump for their food.  Unfortunately the alligators didn't feel like showing off so they just lurked in the water making us all even more uncomfortable than we already were.

 Not sure if this picture is fuzzy because it is Elder Busath's first attempt at using my iphone camera or if he is actually shaking in fear. I am please to report that I really did hold a live alligator and had a python wrapped around my neck. I have a better picture of a picture as you can see below ... 
I hope my grand kids are proud of me because I normally would not have even considered holding an alligator let alone having a snake wrapped around my neck if it wasn't for them :)
Poisonous snakes are plentiful here in the wild kingdom.  The strange thing is that no one seems to be too concerned about it.  They advise caution and suggest wearing hard soled shoes when hiking, but hey this is Florida the flip flop capital of the world.

A white alligator!  He isn't an albino as originally thought. He actually has blue eyes as opposed to pink eyes found in albinos and is one of a species that are born white and tend to be even more dangerous than most. In fact he is so grumpy that he doesn't even play well with others of his own kind.

This alligator was captured in a local neighborhood pond and brought to Gatorland because he kept eating the neighborhood dogs and cats!

We got to see even more exotic pets at one of the shows at Gatorland. Jealous right?

The python is just sitting in a little lean to off the main walkway minding his own business.  Seriously you would miss seeing him if you weren't looking out for other creepy crawlers.
He even looks like a swamp adventurer, right?  Kind of a cross between Indiana Jones and Quigley down under.

Look closely in the water and no it is not a stick. They warned us not to venture off the beaten path of the walkway and for good reason.  This is a water moccasin we happened upon as we walked through the swamp on the property.

Thank goodness for hard shells.  These turtles happily share the water with the alligators.  I guess an alligator would have to be really hungry to want to eat a turtle, shell and all.



 Alligator wrestling anyone?
Pretty birds of a feather obviously flock together.


Okay so maybe it's not lions and tigers and bears oh my. 
It's more like huge tortoises and huge boa constrictors, oh no.

 The Orient Express it is not, but we didn't have to sit in cages like at Disneyland either.

Feeding time!!!

I am not sure what this poor little bunny is doing in Gatorland. Obviously lunch for someone if he isn't careful. I was tempted to pick him up and put him in my purse for a quick escape, but what would I do once I got him safely home?
It's a little strange, but the larger birds don't seem bothered by the gators.  In fact many of them just swoop in a take the food right in front of their noses.  Maybe the gators are allergic to feathers.



 I wish you could see this picture better.  The one in the water is a crocodile with a  long snout. The one on land is an alligator with a more rounded snout. I actually learned something today :)

Say cheese!

You can all take a big breath now because our adventures to Gatorland is now behind you, but our adventures for the week are not quite at an end. 
After Gatorland we raced around finishing up our Saturday errands, hair cut, check, car wash and gas, check, brief shopping spree at Target, check. (Hey it's in the same shopping center of the haircut place so we couldn't resist.) And who doesn't need towels that actually dry between uses, a cheap printer to print out sacrament talks and another magnet to hold up our calendar on the refrigerator? The other magnets are busy holding up pictures from our grand kids.
Anyway we raced home, changed clothes and had the privilege to attend the convert baptism of Richard Kalleo.  Sister's Allen and McLeod met him while tracting in his neighborhood and the rest is history.  We then met with Elders Jackson and Ames at Wendy's to discuss the differences between Red Robin's speckled lemonade and Wendys strawberry lemonade and of course the status of many of our hard to locate members and they were pleased to report that they had great success in locating some of the missing members. We are truly blessed to associate with such dedicated missionaries, only 4 more names to go out of the original 60.
But wait we are not quite done.  It's Sunday and as I write this I am enjoying the sweet peace that comes from "enduring to the end".  The week is almost over and so are our talks.  It's surprising to realize that even giving talks in Sacrament Meeting is easier as missionaries. I normally would have been a basket case, but today I felt calm and confident. Elder Busath even printed out a copy of our talks to give to the Spanish translator to make his job a little easier, or to prove the worth of our new printer, not sure which.  But in any case I think our talks were well received and as a missionary I would be remiss if I didn't share a little of what I learned in my preparation.
Whenever people choose to disregard, disobey, or distort any gospel principle or ordinance, whenever they reject the Lord’s prophets, or whenever they fail to endure in faith, they distance themselves from God and begin to live in spiritual darkness. Eventually this leads to a condition called apostasy.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has proclaimed to the world consistently since its beginning that there was an apostasy of the church founded by Jesus during his ministry and led by his Apostles following his ascension.   If there had not been an apostasy, there would have been no need for a restoration.
Although there will not be another general apostasy from the truth, we must each guard against personal apostasy by keeping our covenants, obeying the commandments, and following Church leaders.
As our Prophet Thomas S. Monson was once quoted as saying, “There is no resting place along the path of faithfulness.  The trek is constant, and no lingering is allowed.  It must not be expected that the road of life spreads itself in an unobstructed view before the person starting his journey.  He must anticipate coming upon forks and turnings in the road.  But he cannot hope to reach his desired journey’s end if he thinks aimlessly about whether to go east or west.  He must make decisions purposefully.
Decisions determine destiny!
We are happy, healthy and blessed to be here doing the Lord's work.
We love you and hope all is well with you and yours!
Until next time...


Monday, April 15, 2013

Our first official alligator sighting

Just when we thought it was safe to walk near the water, we actually spotted a real live alligator near the Mission President's pond around the corner!  Of course he was just a teenager, or so I am told, but an alligator is an alligator, right? Fortunately his dad was nowhere to be found or these pictures would be even harder to see.

The fun just never ends here in the Wild Kingdom :)