Sunday, February 22, 2015

Feb. 22, 2015

Well, this last week has been a COLD one!  The school was out all week because of President’s day. 
But, they would have probably been out anyway because of the cold weather.  The mission tells the missionaries to stay in if it is -20.  They have been in enough to be stir crazy!  We have been out doing things most of the week.  We just noticed our 2nd bedroom ceiling is leaking.  Bother!  We have a bucket under it and have taken the bed out of the way.  We will dry the covering, blankets, etc. 

We have a home teaching assignment and went to see the 3 families on our list.  We now go (Yes, we are assigned as a couple) to the Longs, Haggerty’s, and Voorhees.  The Longs live about 25 miles away and the other 2 families live here in Batavia.  Brother Haggerty (Bill) is the blind organist I talked about.  He has a nice wife and 2 kids that they don’t see very much.  He is discouraged because he would like to be working, but was laid off when times got tough in the music industry.  (he worked at a music store)  He is 60 and they have a home, but I think he likes being very independent and doesn’t want anyone to pity or help him.  He is really an amazing guy.   The Voorhees didn’t want a visit as they were ‘too busy’, but we took them some cupcakes and they didn’t want Dennis to leave.  (I didn’t go up as the sidewalks were about 3 feet deep and didn’t know if we would be received)  Dennis shoveled quite a while to get their walk cleaned.   P.S. from Dennis: While shoveling I met a neighbor (Richard, I think) and had a nice conversation with him. He works as a dealer in a casino in Buffalo. I hope perhaps to get better acquainted with him later.

We had zone meeting this week on Wednesday in our church building here in Batavia.  That was nice.  Afterward the missionaries asked us to join them for lunch.  We had 12 of us there.  We had a nice time being with the young missionaries.  One of the elders, Elder Gubler, from the Warsaw area is so funny.  He was offering suggestions at the meeting and saying all the right things and then said, “I think we should do the Hauka.”  Out of nowhere—I laughed to myself, but no one cracked a smile.  (outwardly)  He then said that he can see the future where the Warsaw areas need more missionaries and that a couple more will come to Warsaw and he will move out and they can have his ‘hobbit hole’.  We have giggled about the way he says things in such a funny way.  There is a lot of comparisons to Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and the Hobbit with the kids (Elders).  (they make the comments)

On Monday night we decided that I needed something done with my hair and for the first time ever in our marriage, Dennis cut my hair.  NO, he didn’t want to.  BUT—I told him all he had to do was follow the pattern already set and just trim off the ends a little.  He did a pretty good job.  We had a lot of laughs doing this.  The next morning we went to the Temple with a neighboring district (because they needed a car and we were willing).  The Elders that went with us had a  new Elder that has some special needs (not too much, maybe Asperger's).  Anyway, he needed a haircut and they were at a home of an older couple.  The man said that his wife could do the job.  The companion showed me the video he took of the haircut.  The gal was smoking with one hand and trying to swing scissors with the other.  She didn’t have a comb, etc.  It was so funny!  I guess he didn’t enjoy the cut and went back to their apartment and buzzed his head with the shortest guard.  I have asked for the video and hope to be able to share it with those that would like a good laugh.

We have been working on Familysearch and Dennis was able to print off a Temple sheet for one of his relatives.  We thought that this was pretty fabulous as they want us to have our own names to go to the Temple here.  I tried my first time at indexing.  (I had told the Elders that it was easy and they could encourage other to do it.)  Well, I found out that it was easy to get into the program, but reading the papers and the way that they wrote many years ago wasn’t too easy.  I will try it again, I can see that it is very much needed.

We had a Mission Leadership Meeting on Friday morning.  Our President had been called to Salt Lake City and they were trained on using the IPads (for real).  Our mission had been using them for 1 year as a pilot program.  Now all of the missions in North America and Canada will be getting them and it has a structured program.  We will be traveling all over the mission when the new IPads arrive and be meeting with all of the missionaries.  This should be really fun!

We went to the Temple again yesterday (Saturday) and took our zone.  It was really great.  There is such a calm, peaceful feeling there.  The snow was softly falling and we could look out over the Sacred Grove and the valley there.  It is so beautiful here.  The Elders kept remarking that they couldn’t believe that they had been called to this most sacred of missions.  It is pretty wonderful!

When we were leaving the Temple we met Rex Brown and his wife.  (from Dad’s store) and she was so happy to see someone she knew.  They are in the Utica Mission and had come over to do baptisms with a youth group.  It was good to see them and hear of their mission.  He is a former military man and they have been assigned to the base there.  (I don’t know what division of the military he is in)  He said that there are a bunch leaving for Afghanistan shortly and they will be busy helping with their families while they are gone. 

We had the best church today.  Our mission president, President Francis, took 2 of the hours.  He is such a giant of a man—6’7” and a spirit to match.  He really inspired the branch members to invite others to come to church and hear the missionaries. 
Elder with the Hair CUT
Here is a picture of the hair cut and color (not bad, huh?)

 Elder Gubler at Nima's (best calzone ever!)  I was trying to stay out the picture and Sister Walker is across from me with her husband, Elder Walker.
Winner so far in the icicle contest

Another barn, this one is made of plywood
  • We are so blessed to belong to such a great family!
  • We haven't been sick (or too homesick)  I (Rhonda) had a cold that lasted about 12 hours.  I know, colds usually last 7-10 days.  This one was fast!
  • I haven't gotten the cough that accompanies cigarette smoke.  People here haven't heard--cigarettes aren't good for people.  There is so much smoking here and I have been able to avoid (so far) getting the terrible cough that usually accompanies my allergy to cigarette smoke.  We have been able to visit in homes that are very smoke filled, but without any incident.  Our apartment complex has several smokers in it and it can get pretty stinky, but we have been blessed to not be bothered too much.
Palmyra Temple

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Feb. 15, 2015

This email was composed entirely by Dennis, dad, grandpa, Elder Merrill, son, etc.  (anything you know him by).  This is a rare and treasured thing.

The mission continues to be an amazing experience for us. We have made some visits with the missionaries this week that were really special. Our meeting with Amanda and Skyler went really well. She has been doing a lot of reading and looking at things on the church website. We also met with a young lady whose mother is a member. She told us she believes Joseph Smith was a prophet. Her mother has begun family search and says she can only do it when she has lots of time because of all the new people she finds each time she goes on line.

We have also been working on our assignment to prepare to teach missionaries how to introduce investigators to family search. We spent the day Tuesday at family search centers, the first we discovered was not open at the time it was scheduled to open, so we went to another about 45 minutes away. We were there for about 2 hours before they had to close. Rhonda(Sister Merrill) found three possible names that might need work done but could not find all the information need to print cards for them. I didn’t have anyone to assist me but I was able to trace one of our lines clear back to Adam and Eve(The Mother of all Living).

Much of our week has been given to preparing food for different things. Shepherd pie, rolls and lemon cake to feed the missionaries after district meeting. We also made cookies to serve after MTC for the Branch members. This is a class the missionaries are teaching to help members help the missionaries with missionary work. Then for today,(Sunday) we made cream cheese tortilla  roll-ups for the Branch. They were going to have what they call “Munch and Mingle” after the Branch Conference but it was canceled because the wind chill is 28 below 0 today. This coming week we will also feed the Elders after Zone Meeting Wed. Believe me, Sister Merrill’s cooking skills are very much appreciated here.

Yesterday (Sat.) the High Priest group had planned a trip to the temple, so we decided to go early and visit some of the sites around Palmyra. We left Batavia in a pretty bad snow storm but soon drove out of it. But soon after arriving there the same storm followed us and for the rest of the day it was pretty bad. We were able to see the Grandin Printing Shop, where the first five thousand copies of the Book of Mormon were printed, and we drove to the Martin Harris home-- but it was snowing so hard we really couldn’t see much. We then went to the Temple and they nearly canceled the session but two other couples came, one from Seattle, and another from Ontario, Canada, so they went ahead with the session. After the session the storm had let up so we went back to Batavia and celebrated Valentine’s Day at McDonalds.
That pretty well sums up our week but we still need to go back and get a hot dog at the seven eleven and give that guy a Book of Mormon. We are so much loving the work and being so close as companions. Our testimonies are growing every day. We love you all and look forward to sharing this great experience with all of you.

 Blessings I will try to add each week (by Rhonda)
  • The blessing of having a washer and dryer at home.  We pay $3.00 per load here and are happy to have it downstairs.  We thought we might do better downtown, but they wanted $5.00 per load.  So, let's not forget how nice it is to do wash at our convenience at home.
  • The blessing of being kept warm with a central furnace.  We have a gas furnace (sort of like at the cabin) and it turns off and gets things warm, but goes off quickly and stays off a while.  We have really enjoyed our insulated underwear. (especially for our apartment)
  • The blessing of having wonderful parents and families.  People here don't seem to do much with family.  We mentioned that people don't seem to be that excited to be sealed to their parents, etc.  We were told that a lot of people had mean parents and grandparents.  MEAN.  I'm can't imagine not wanting to be with our families.
  • I'm grateful almost daily for things my family has done for me.  I look at what I have on or am using and think of that special person.  Thank you for everything you have helped me with!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Feb. 8, 2015

The weeks seem to be going by so fast.  We have had snow here every day.  It is pretty, but watching people shoveling and snow blowing makes it less glamorous.  They just get it cleaned out and the snow plows come by and throw up a big bunch in their drives again.  It has also been cold.  It is nice and warm in our apartment so the cold and snow makes it hard to want to go outside. 
President Francis cancelled our weekly staff meeting last Monday because of extreme weather conditions. 
The mission rules state that we can’t care for or cuddle children (for our protection), but that really makes it seem like a long time until we can cuddle and love our own little ones. 
We had a baptism for an 11 year old boy last Thursday.  He is excited about the church and invites his friends and neighbors to church and to meet with the missionaries.  The Elders have had several appointments because of his enthusiasm.  We should all be that excited!  It is hard to be bold, but we are really trying to speak up more and talk with people about the church.
We went to a funeral in Warsaw yesterday.  The couple missionaries there needed a pianist and I had the opportunity to play for the services.  I used the new prelude book that Annette and Chris gave me and it worked out well.  I wished I would have had more time to practice prior to the services, but it turned out pretty well.  We were surprised when the services started at 4:00 p.m.  It is usually dark here about 5:20 and we thought it would be hard to go to the cemetery.  Well—they don’t bury anyone here until spring because of the hills and trying to get into the cemetery in the winter.  They store the caskets and then have a small ceremony prior to the final interment.  Surprise!
 We are enjoying our time here.  We are getting more and more involved with the branch here. 
We are still working on getting more comfortable with our assignment and President Francis give us an  additional piece to it at our interview last Thursday—we are to train the missionaries on getting their investigators involved with family search prior to baptism.  They want to have them take one of their own family names to the temple for baptism within 5 weeks of their baptism.  We are trying to put together some type of training to get them excited and prepared to teach this.  There are so many helps on the family search website, but it will need to be very simple and fun for them to get excited about it.  President Francis asked how we were getting along in our companionship.  (seriously)  I told him that we hadn't spent this much time together in our entire marriage--with work, children, callings, etc.  My sweet companion, Dennis, said that he had mission experiences as a young man and now he is experiencing the work with me and what a blessing it has been- and that his love for his companion had really grown.  Wow, how great is this experience?

We went to the Temple last Friday night with another couple from Brockport.  They drove and our car was parked near the freeway for us to get home quicker.  It was about 9:30 p.m. and we thought we would go to the Seven/Eleven for a drink for our 45 min. drive.  There were 2 men inside that were nice and kind at the counter.  I went back to the car and Dennis talked with them for 15 minutes or so.  We were half way home when he said,  “Wow, I blew it, I missed my chance to place 2 Books of Mormon.  He gave me a free drink and I should have given him something in return.”  We will be going back to the 7/11.
We have felt the spirit so strongly this week.  I told Dennis that we need to hydrate more everyday because we are weeping so much.  It has been so crazy!  I cry at passages in the scriptures.  Everything has so much more meaning.
At church this morning the branch president asked 3 ladies to bear testimony and tell of their conversions.  One was particularly touching to me.  This lady told of her life and the extreme anxiety she had in her life.  She was about paralyzed with it and had even tried suicide.  She met the missionaries and took some of the lessons and they took her to the Sacred Grove.  They visited with her there and then left her to reflect for some time.  When they came back she was on a bench and they asked her how she felt.  She said, "Please, just go get my shotgun and a sleeping bag."  She told them that she never wanted to leave and that she would just sleep there and shoot anyone that made her leave.  She said that her anxiety left her while there and she began to heal.  It was amazing!  We talked with her in the hall following Sacrament meeting and her husband told us of his experience.  He married her as a non-member, about a month after their marriage they went to the Sacred Grove together.  He enjoyed the peaceful, calm way he felt and then he heard the most beautiful, soft singing.  The song was the Joseph Smith Vision (Oh, how beautiful the morning) and a group of young men were some distance away from him singing the song.  He was given a testimony of the church at that time.  They are a nice couple and I loved hearing their story.  We are lucky here to hear so many conversion stories because not very many people were born and raised in the church here.  They are slowly finding the truth and being baptized.  The Church is true, Heavenly Father wants us all to return to Him, Jesus is our Savior, and the Book of Mormon has the power to convert.  I know this!
Icicles, but not very competitive

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Mission life

We have had a steep learning curve.  We worked vigorously the first week on learning how to use Facebook and  We also went with the missionaries to teaching appointments and had them over to eat.  We have 4 missionaries that live about 4 blocks from us.  They are the nicest young men.  They are great!  We also have a district with 4 other young men and a couple.  We meet once a week and the couples feed everyone after the meeting.  I had my turn this week (Jan. 27) and made chicken roll ups and chocolate cake. (there weren't any left overs)
We drove to the mission office following our Tuesday district meeting for a transfer meeting.  We had 23 new missionaries come to the mission and 14 go home.  President Francis takes the new missionaries to the Sacred Grove as soon as he can upon their arrival.  We were all waiting in the chapel for them to arrive for the meeting.  As the new missionaries arrived I could see that they were scared and unsure of their new situation.  They were asked to sit on the first 3 benches of the chapel.  After the preliminaries of the meeting the President announced who would train the new missionary.  The trainer went to the front and extended their hands and hugs to the new missionary.   It was the most tender, loving experience--the new missionary was greeted with such caring and excitement.  I saw the new missionaries grab hold of their trainer (like a life line) and begin their bond.  It was a great experience!
We passed out Ipads to the new missionaries (every missionary has one in our mission) and then we tried to explain that they had been used and needed to be cleaned off and then they could install the things prescribed by the Church for their use.  It is a wonderful program.  However, the couple asked to administer the program here (us) are not very confident in what we have learned in 4 days of study.
We found out later that evening that we were to go around the mission with the President in the next 3 days; training the new missionaries on Facebook and Family search.  We scrambled that night to get things ready and PowerPoint programs for the training.
Training Day 1:     We went to Brockport and Westfall  (not too bad and the day wasn't too long)
Training Day 2:      Hornell, Canandague, Fayette, Lyons, Palmyra, and Pittsford  (phew!)
Training Day 3:     Orchard Park, Lewiston, Amherst, Batavia
The last one in our own district seemed to be the most spiritual.  President Francis was really close to the spirit in praising the Elders for their diligence.  We are part of a great District!
We are so grateful that we have Siri on our phones.  She only let us down once in our travels.  The address in Hornell was wrong on our papers and we couldn't find it.  We finally did after asking around and praying for help. 
The scenery here is beautiful!  We saw large mountains, lakes, rivers, more trees than you can imagine, beautiful farm ground, and small towns.  Many towns here have Indian names and names of towns from other countries; such as Greece, Holland, Naples, Warsaw, etc.  We have Wyoming also.
We have also seen poverty and wealth.   Batavia is a town of about 15,000 and it seems to be made up of a large amount of poverty.  There are several large chains here; Walmart, Target, JC Penny, Verizon, Home Depot, Applebees, Long John Silvers, 2 McDonalds, Wendy's, and Burger King.  There are several small pizza places and we have been to one called Big Paulie.  It is really good and they are very nice there.  There are also at least 5 hotels.  The high school here is called Notre Dame--who knew?  There is a nice hospital also.  I think that it will be a pretty place after the winter.  It is dreary and white (grey) now.  There are trees that line most of the streets and it will be pretty.  There are a lot of older, 2 story homes, some are in better shape than others. 
I am attaching a picture of Dennis after cleaning the snow off the car and getting ready to go--his face is pretty rosy!