Saturday, February 28, 2015

Beach Day

Today David, Maile, and their children drove over from Orlando to visit us here.  We had planned to go to the beach, but the weather was overcast, cool, and windy.  Not great beach weather.  However, since none of the grandchildren had ever been to the beach before, we decided to try it.  We drove to Siesta Key Beach, supposedly one of the best beaches in the U.S.  The kids loved it.  We had purchased some beach toys -- shovels, buckets, etc.  They were busy building castles, decorating them with shells, digging holes in the sand, and generally having a grand time.  They all waded into the water, but the cold water and air temperature discouraged any swimming.  When it started to rain and we announced that we needed to leave, Grady (3) started crying.  He didn't want to leave.  It was fun for us to see them so happy.  And I didn't mind sitting on my new beach chair just watching them!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Training Days

This entry is for two days since we basically did the same thing on both Thursday and Friday.  We arose early, drove for an hour+, met with the missionaries for a 6 hour zone conference with Elder Zwick of the Seventy, and then met with ward and stake councils for a meeting on member and missionary efforts.  They were very long days, but I thought the instruction was excellent.  Elder Zwick is an excellent teacher.

On Thursday, we met in the Brandon Stake Center with missionaries from the Sarasota, Brandon, and Lakeland zones.  On Friday, we met at the Tampa Stake Center with the St. Petersburg and Tampa zones.

The speakers were Elder and Sister Zwick, and President and Sister Cusick.  Elder Zwick spoke on the importance of companions and on the divine nature of their callings.  He said to develop lasting relationships with companions.  He explained the process the members of the Quorum of the Twelve follow in assigning missionaries to specific missions.  He taught that we can improve our teaching by simplying and intensifying.  Don't try to cover too much.  He had the missionaries present using the format of statement of principle, experience and testify, doctrine/scripture and testify.

Sister Zwick spoke about the power of prayer.

In the afternoon, Elder Zwick emphasized that we are not just engaged in missionary work, we are building the foundation for the rest of our lives.  He stated that if we are willing to change to accomplish the Lord's work,we will be successful.

In the evening meeting, Elder Zwick noted that the bishop holds the keys for missionary work in each ward.  He also said that the ward councils needed to be involved.  He said that each week the following questions should be asked in ward councils: 1) what are the names of progressing investigators who will be attending church meetings that day, 2) what are the names of those investigators with baptismal dates, 3) what are the names of members working closely with investigators, and 4) who will be taught in your home next week.  He was emphatic that the investigators should be taught in members' homes.

The program for both days was similar.  Some of the stories were different, but they basically taught the same principles.

Between the meetings, the missionaries did an iPad exchange where the swapped their old iPads for new ones.  The new iPads have improved filtering software.  However, as Elder Zwick emphasized again, the best filter is one's personal commitment to integrity and following the commandments.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Disney World

I suppose that I should not document in our missionary blog that we spent the day at Disney World's EPCOT.  We had a great time with our family.  We wore our preparation day clothing including our name tags.  We were stopped by a few members who wanted to say hello and wondered why senior missionaries could go to Disney World.  They seemed satisfied when we told them that we were with visiting family.

We enjoyed spending time with our grandkids.  I especially like that our 3 year-old grandson really likes his grandpas, so he was happy to have me carry him around.  However, my arms appreciated that some times I could put him in the stroller and push him around.

After they returned to their hotel, we drove back to Sarasota.  I was really tired, so it was a challenge staying awake during the drive back.  Renee didn't help as she slept for most of the way.  We needed to be back for the zone conferences that starts tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Orlando Trip

With the permission of our mission president, we drove to Orlando today.  Orlando is slightly outside of our mission boundaries, but our son and family are taking a vacation at Disney World.  We will stay overnight in Orlando, and then spend the day with them at Disney World tomorrow.

Monday, February 23, 2015


Our first activity on our P-Day was to visit a nearby county park.  It is nicely maintained with paths through the trees and alongside a lake.  But it wasn't very exciting, and probably isn't a "do again."

We then finished (hopefully) the last of our apartment shopping by purchasing some furniture for our lanai (deck).  The weather has suddenly changed from freeze warnings to 80 degrees.  So we thought that we might be able to sit on the lanai in the mornings during our study time.  That will probably work for about a month, and then it will be too hot to go outside.

We ended the day by driving to another county park.  But this one is renown for its bird population.  Over 300 species have been identified there.  We were there mid-afternoon which is not a good time for bird viewing, or my objective of bird photographing.  However, I wanted to find out where it is and get a general perspective of the layout.  It is a very large, open area with several ponds and marshes.  I will be going back either early in the morning or late in the afternoon to try some photography.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Long, But Good Sunday

I expect that Sundays are going to regularly be long days for us.  We again arose early so that we could travel to the Port Charlotte Ward.  Yes, it was about an hour drive south of us.  Fortunately, they are the only unit meeting in their building, so they hold ward council at 8:30 am and then the block of meetings commences at 10 am.  My impression is this is a large and well-functioning ward.  They have four missionaries assigned to the ward, and a couple of people asked if they could have two additional missionaries assigned.  Although the ward members are involved, the current missionaries are not yet teaching 20 lessons per week, which is the goal for the missionaries.

Following the meetings, we returned to the Sarasota chapel to attend the Sacrament Meeting for the YSA branch.  We happened to meet a young man who is a member of the Church last week when I purchasing some walking shoes.  He mentioned that he was speaking this week, so we wanted to attend the Sacrament Meeting.  He gave a fine talk.  He is working to save money for his mission and hopes to leave at the end of the summer.

I ended the day with my weekly phone call to father.  Fortunately, he continues to do well.  He really enjoys the phone calls and visits he receives from family members.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Another Training Day

Today we arose early to drive to the Brandon Stake Center -- again about an hour drive.  The purpose was to attend a training meeting on Public Affairs in the region.  Renee has public affairs in the mission as one of her assignments.  Elder Zwick presided, and again it was an excellent meeting.  Elder Stephen Thompson, an Area Seventy for our area, also spoke.  He emphasized the need to publicize the name of the Church and to make sure we take direction from those who hold priesthood keys.  He noted that those who hold priesthood keys are entitled to revelation.

Elder Zwick said that what really matters is personal salvation.  What we are doing is helping to bring people to Christ.  Using the example of the Savior feeding five thousand, he said that we should evaluate our resources, give thanks for what we have, and then the Lord will provide what we may be lacking.

Bro. Hemingway, from the missionary department, was inviting to speak briefly about the technology missionaries will be and are using.  He had a very impactful slide showing the initial missionary work of the Church.  He highlighted how the Gospel was initially taught to friends, neighbors, and relatives.  What we would today term social networking.  And that is what the missionaries will be doing.  He asked us to mention the Church in our posts on Facebook and other social network sites.  That may lead to requests for additional information.

There followed a series of reports on how the Public Affairs effort should be organized and examples from each of the five stakes in our region (mission).

Elder Zwick concluded the meeting by talking about his father's conversion.  His mother is a descendant of Hyrum Smith.  He told about President Eyring's response to the Pope's question about why we are able to get things done.  President Eyring told him that was because of our faith in Jesus Christ that leads to action.

We hurried home following the 5 hour meeting (fortunately they provided lunch), so we could attend a baptism in the University Park Ward.  We had met the brother who was baptized a few weeks ago.  His wife is a member of the Church.  One can only imagine how happy she was when her husband was baptized.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Special Mission Training Meeting - Disciples of the Lord in the Digital Age

We arose early so that we could be at the mission office by 8:00 am for a special training meeting for all of the mission.  It is unusual for the entire mission to gather for a training meeting, though this is the second one since we have been here.

Presiding over the meeting was Elder W. Craig Zwick of the First Quorum of the Seventy.  Brother Michael Hemingway of the Church's Missionary Department was also in attendance.  The purpose of the training was a "reset" of the mission's use of iPad minis.  Our mission is one of 28 worldwide that have been working with the iPads.  The missionary department has been learning as have the missionaries.  In the next few weeks, our missionaries will trade in their old iPads for new ones with additional filtering and monitoring software installed.

It was an excellent meeting.  Elder Zwick spoke about his missionary experience in traveling from Argentina to Bolivia to begin teaching in some small villages with the assignment to construct a church building.  It required him to change his thinking and perspective and to do things in new ways.  That is the challenge that our missionaries have in working with digital technology. There is great potential for using this technology in learning and teaching the gospel.  However, there are also risks.

He stressed the need for complete obedience to the rules in the Missionary Handbook.  He said those rules apply just as much in working with the iPads.  He stated that exact obedience brings miracles.  He said that the brethren want the missionaries to learn how to use the digital technology because after their mission no one will be controlling their iPad.  We must have it in our hearts to avoid wasting time on the internet and in seeking inappropriate materials.  He quoted Elder Nelson, "If we can engrave the doctrine in our hearts, we can raise a sin resistant strain of missionaries."

Bro. Hemingway explained the transition from the old iPads to the new ones.  He referred to the Finding section in Preach My Gospel and asked how many of the suggested methods could not be done online.  The missionaries could find only one, tracting.  He explained the filtering levels with the most important being our personal testimony and righteousness.

Elder Zwick concluded the 4 1/2 hour meeting by stating that missionary work is hard work.  He emphasized that we are on the Lord's errand, and He will help us do hard things.  He said that we need to be willing to change and do what the Lord expects.  This is the Lord's time, we should use it wisely.

On an unrelated matter, it continues to be cold here.  Last night there was a freeze warning for Sarasota.  I know that isn't cold by Utah standards.  But since we didn't bring much cold weather clothing, it is cold to us!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

An Easy Day

Today we didn't have any specific assignments, so we used the time to try to get our apartment in shape.  We also did some grocery shopping for general necessities such as flour.  My big accomplishment was getting the oil changed in my car.  I found a place about a mile from our apartment that was able to do it. My other accomplishment is that Renee agreed to go to Chick-fil-A for lunch.  At least she finds it less objectionable than the other fast food places I frequent.

We are ready for the visit by our grandkids.  We are hoping for some good beach weather.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A Day of Returns

We started the day by driving to Bradenton to check on the apartment where sister missionaries are living.  It took us about 30 minutes to drive there.  (It seems as though everything is 30 minutes or more away.)  The apartment complex is fine, but there may be a smoker living in an adjacent unit.  They will check to see if they might be able to change apartments when the lease expires in a month.

The rest of the day was spent with returns.  Renee returned to the hair stylist for some touchup.  We returned accessory items that we had purchased for our apartment -- comforters, placemats, etc.  The colors didn't work.

When I returned placemats to Bed Bath and Beyond, a young lady at the return desk greeted me with "President."  That wasn't too strange, since I was wearing my name badge.  (Although often in stores people mistake me for an employee because of the name badge.)  She is a returned missionary.  Her co-worker wondered how she knew me.  She responded that she had not met me previously but that I was a member of her Church.  The co-worker asked how she knew that, and she said because of the name badge.  She attends the Sarasota YSA Branch, but apparently was working on the Sunday we attended the branch.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

District Meetings

Today we attended district meetings in the St. Petersburg Zone.  In keeping with our past tradition, I drove to the wrong building for the first district meeting.  So after calling the zone leaders, we were directed to the correct building.  We arrived 30 minutes late but were in time for the instruction by the zone leaders.

Elder and Sister Smith, another senior missionary couple, were also in attendance.  Their assignment is quite different from ours.  They are assigned to a small branch in the St. Petersburg Stake and are spending a lot of time trying to locate inactive members.  The challenge for them is after they locate members, the branch members are not good at working to fellowship them.

In the afternoon, we attended the district meeting of the other district in the St. Petersburg Zone.  Fortunately, we made it to the correct building on the first try.

The training in both meetings was on using the Church's pamphlets.  They can be used in finding, teaching, and working with members.  The zone leaders taught a lesson on using them and had the missionaries role play.  The district leaders taught a some lesson at the end of the meetings - one on having faith and one on not wasting our time.  Again, we enjoyed meeting with the missionaries and are impressed at how effective they are in teaching.

Monday, February 16, 2015

P(ark) Day

After tidying up our apartment a bit this morning, we drove to Myakka River State Park, about 15 miles away.  This is basically a 55 square mile nature preserve.  The Myakka River runs through it and is designated as a "wild and scenic" river to give it some protection from development.  There are hiking trails, a "bird walk" which is a board walk out from the shore of a large lake, and a "canopy walk" and tower.  The canopy walk is a suspension bridge about the same height as the tops of the trees.  At one end is a 75' high tower.  It provides a nice view of what I call the "flatness" of our area.

I enjoyed the opportunity to take some pictures, the first time I have been able to do that since arriving in Florida.

View from the Tower

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Another Long Day

We started the day by arising early to attend the Ward Council meeting in the Bradenton Ward.  Our apartment is about midway between the Bradenton and Sarasota buildings, and it takes us about 25 minutes to get to either one.  The Bradenton Ward is on the 9 am block, so their ward council meeting began at 7:30.  I was feeling that we had gone the extra mile to get up so early, but a high councilor who lives in Venice (30 minutes south of us) was in attendance beginning with their 6:30 am bishopric meeting.

The ward has some interesting demographics.  The bishop's father is the ward clerk (and a former bishop) and his wife is the daughter of the ward mission leader.  We met a sister whose 17 grandchildren all live in the ward.  There didn't seem to be many young families.

After their meetings ended, we raced back to our apartment for a quick lunch.  We then drove to Siesta Key (about 30 minutes) for the choir concert.  The St. Boniface Church building is good sized, but it was filled.  They had sound connected in an overflow room for those who didn't fit into the main chapel.  For the performance, they augmented the choirs with a brass ensemble and bell choir along with the church organ.  I am biased, but I thought our choir did well.  They had full-time missionaries from the Sarasota Zone serving as ushers.  When I visited with them afterwards, they commented that they could understand the words that our choir was singing.  All-in-all, it was a good experience, and I'm glad that we participated.  However, I told Renee that she should not take my participation as a sign that she should volunteer me to sing in any choirs in the future.

One of the songs that the combined choirs sang was The King of Love My Shepherd Is which was written specifically for this choir concert by Bro. Murphy.  This was the first time it had been performed in public.  It is a lovely piece, and I hope we did it well enough for him.

The senior Wilson's with Bro. Ryan Murphy, Associate Director of the Tabernacle Choir

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Rehearsal Day

We have been practicing with the Sarasota Stake Choir to participate in a multi-denominational choir concert tomorrow.  The concert will be at the St. Boniface Episcopal Church on Siesta Key with three other choirs participating.  Each choir will sing individually and then the combined choirs will sing three songs under the direction of Ryan Murphy, the associate director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

This morning, he presented two seminars that Renee wanted to attend.  The first was on conducting techniques and the second on the choir.  Both were interesting, but I told Renee that she owes me a baseball game in return for my going to the seminars.

In the afternoon, we rehearsed with the other choirs the three combined songs.  The other choirs are from a Baptist church, a Methodist church, and a local high school.  Our choir is the largest, but the high school choir is probably the best of the four.

Bro. Murphy is an excellent conductor.  He has a good sense of humor and obvious technical skills.  I found it interesting how he worked with us to try to get us on pitch and pronouncing the words (especially the vowels) correctly.  He commented in the morning seminar that 90% of the Tabernacle Choir practice time is spent on attaining the correct pitch.

This evening he presented a fireside at the Sarasota chapel on the Tabernacle Choir.  He spoke about the influence the choir's singing has had on individuals and shared letters from people who had felt the Spirit as they listened to the Choir.

It was a long day, but an uplifting day.

Friday, February 13, 2015

My Haircut

Today was my day for a haircut.  I had a different selection criteria.  I had noticed a hair salon for men in a strip mall by our neighborhood WalMart.  They took walk-ins and the price was right ($14), so I had them cut my hair.  I think the result was fine, but Renee thinks it is too short.  However, she always says that after my haircuts.  She tells me that I am not on the BYU faculty any more, but I reminded her that I need to be an example to the full-time missionaries.

The man who cut my hair is Palestinian and is Muslim.  He has family members who are Christian.  His father was a university professor.  His family has lived in several countries, obviously including the U.S.  We had an interesting conversation.  And since his shop is close, I will go back.

Even though today was Friday the 13th, I suggested that we have our Valentine's Day dinner.  Tomorrow, we will be involved with rehearsing for our choir event, and I am not sure what our day will be like.  So we skipped lunch and went to an early dinner at the Cheesecake Factory in the nearby mall.  Even though it was 4 pm, we had to wait 15 minutes for a table.  The meal was fine, but we had a difficult deciding which cheesecake to order from their 20 alternatives.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Hair Cut Day

It has been two months since either of us had a haircut.  I think my hair is looking shaggy, though Renee thinks it looks fine.  I think hers is fine, but she doesn't.  She has been asking sister missionaries about hair stylists (they can't afford to go to any of them) and various Church members.  She finally did an internet search looking for recommendations.  Neither of us realized that Yelp, the restaurant review site, also has reviews on hair stylists among other things.  So she picked one and made an appointment for today.

I dropped her off at the hair stylist and then had lunch at McDonald's, my go to lunch spot.  It wasn't busy, so I sat there using their WiFi connection and reviewed some materials from the Church on missionary use of technology that Pres. Cusick had asked me to read.

When I picked up Renee, she was concerned.  Her hair had indeed been cut and restyled.  She said that she had explained that she wanted about an inch cut off and showed him some pictures of what she wanted the result to be.  The stylist seemed to understand, and Renee said that he said all of the right words.  And then he started cutting, and cutting, and cutting.  She says that her hair has not been this short since once when she was in high school.  I will try to post a picture if she will let me.

The Original Cut and Style
A Different Syling

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Traumatic Day (for Renee)

We started the day doing some shopping for miscellaneous items for our apartment, such as towels.  We also went to our old apartment to clean it.  We don't know who or when it will be used next, but it is a nice apartment in a good location relative to the Sarasota building.

Renee had written some Valentine's Day cards for our grandchildren and the children who were in her Primary class at home.  She was anxious for them to be mailed so they would arrive by Valentine's Day.  I went to a mailbox, but it was past the pickup time.  It listed a later pickup at a post office and gave the post office address.  So I left Renee at a store and started the drive to the post office.  After programming the address into the Garmin GPS, I realized it would take an hour to drive to the post office and back.  So I called Renee to tell her how long I would be, but she had left her cell phone in the car.  Knowing that she wanted to have the cards mailed, I just continued on my way.  Since it was rush hour and the traveling was all on city streets, it took longer than the hour I had expected.

When I returned, Renee was distraught.  She couldn't understand why I was gone so long.  She borrowed a cell phone to call me, but she couldn't remember my cell phone number.  She called her cell phone, knowing that it was in the car.  I had heard her phone ring, but since I was driving, I didn't want to search around the car to find it.  She imagined that I had been in an accident or something.

Fortunately, all's well that ends well, and I did return safely.  And the Valentine's Day cards were mailed successfully.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Zone Training and Mission Presidency Meeting

We had a mission presidency meeting scheduled for today in Tampa, so we thought we would go early and participate in a district meeting in the same building.  So I dressed for a typical district meeting -- white shirt, tie, and slacks.  However, it was a zone training meeting for all of the missionaries in the Brandon zone.  For zone training meetings, the missionaries all wear suits.  And, President Cusick and President Healey (and wives) also attended.  Talk about "which of these brethren is not like the others!"  At least we were on time!

Following the zone training, we participated in a mission presidency meeting with President Cusick, President and Sister Healey, and the Assistants to the President.  I felt like I really belonged because my new name tags with President Wilson have arrived.  We spoke about a range of issues including how to motivate wards and missionaries, how to accomplish the administrative assignments, and the use of technology.  I was given the assignment to review some new training and guidelines on using technology, especially iPad minis.  There are some real benefits for the missionaries in having the technology available but some real dangers for the missionaries as well.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Another Shopping Day :-(

We spent our P-day shopping again.  This time, we were purchasing items that we need for our new apartment, such as an ironing board, vacuum, pots and pans.  I didn't think that it would take all day, but unfortunately it did.  Since we are purchasing items that will remain in the mission when we leave, we are using an ecclesiastical exemption from sales tax.  That saves the Church a bit.  We also used several furniture items that had been left by previous senior couples.  We just learned that another couple will be coming to the mission in March.  There isn't much furniture left in storage for them, so they will need new furniture as well.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Sunday with the Sarasota Ward

Continuing our trip through the Sarasota Stake, today we visited the Sarasota Ward.  We are enjoying having the opportunity to visit the wards and branches in the stake.  When we first meet members, they seem excited and ask if we have been assigned to their ward.  We tell them that we have been assigned to the stake and are visiting all of the wards, and they seem a bit disappointed.  I hope that is because in the past, senior missionaries have been assigned to their ward, and they had a positive experience.

After the block of meetings ended at 4, we rushed back to our apartment.  We now live about twice as far from the Sarasota chapel, so our driving time has lengthened.  We ate a quick lunch/dinner and then returned to the chapel for the choir rehearsal.  The performance is next Sunday, so we are about as rehearsed as we are going to be.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Moving Day

After our late evening waiting for the approvals and the lease to be signed, we started the moving process early today.  We had ordered furniture and scheduled its delivery for today -- hence our anxious for the lease to be signed.  We left our temporary apartment early because the furniture company gave us a 7 to 11 am window for delivery.  They arrived at 7:30 am and it took about 2 hours for them to delivery and setup a bed, dining room table and chairs, sofa, loveseat, end tables, and night stands.

I then headed back to our old apartment to start moving our things to our new "home."  I had just arrived when the "traveling Elder," three missionaries who work on the missionaries apartments arrived to help move our mattresses.  It was great to have their help because I could never have done it by myself -- down 2 stories at the old apartment and up 1 story at the new.

We then spent the rest of the day moving our clothes, etc. that we brought with us from Utah.  Even though we worked at it for several hours, we still haven't completely moved everything.  Our new apartment is about 6 miles from our old one, so we had considerable driving time involved.

We are glad to finally have our housing situation settled, although we are certainly not settled in.  But there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Friday, February 6, 2015

We Have A Home!

We finally have a permanent apartment.  It has taken a lot of effort, but we have a signed lease and keys to the apartment.  The challenge has been to structure the apartment lease as a corporate lease rather than for us as individuals.

The Church will be leasing the apartment and making the monthly rental payments.  In turn, the amount of the rent will be deducted from our ward's missionary fund.  And we make a contribution to the ward's missionary fund each month for the amount of the rent.  The advantage of doing this is that our monthly rent will be tax deductible for us.

The difficulty is that for the apartment complex where we wanted to rent, corporate rental agreements require much more paperwork and more approvals.  Since there are missionaries already living in an apartment in the complex, we thought it would be an easy process.  However, since the missionaries' lease was signed, the apartment complex was sold to a large property investment company in New York.  They have instituted a number of new requirements.  The local people are just learning the new corporate process, so they wanted to proceed very carefully to make sure everything was done correctly.

We finally ended up sitting in the leasing office for 2 1/2 hours this evening (including an hour past their closing time) while they concluded the application process and received approvals from their corporate office.  They wanted proof that was approved to sign leases for the Church.  My ministers certificate issued to all missionaries seemed to satisfy their concerns.  Although it made for a long day for them, they were very gracious in working to getting everything finished.  We were in a rush because we are supposed to have furniture delivered tomorrow.  So we will finally have a home for the next 17 months.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Transfer Day

Today we participate in our first transfer day.  All of the missionaries being transferred, including the newly arrived missionaries, as well as those receiving new companions met at the mission office/chapel.  President Cusick gave a short speech stressing the importance of the Book of Mormon and that we should focus on sharing the message of the Book of Mormon with investigators.  He also thanked the missionaries for their flexibility.  One Elder found out at 8:30 this morning that he was being transferred and needed to be at the mission office at 10.  He was there.

He then assigned the new missionaries to their trainers.  I have become acquainted with some of those assigned to be trainers, and I am impressed by them.  The new missionaries are in good hands.

President Cusick then read the remaining transfers.  It was interesting to watch as some missionaries were obviously excited to be working together, and others less so.  Not surprisingly, the sisters seemed to show more emotion.

That concluded at mid-day.  We checked the mission storage to see if there were any furniture items we could use.  We then drove back to Sarasota and dropped off some leasing papers at our hopefully permanent apartment.  It appears that everything is in place except for the credit check on the Church.  There certainly won't be any problem with that, but it will take the company some time to run the check.  Hopefully everything will be completed by tomorrow so that we can move in on Saturday.

We ended the day by attending a missionary coordination meeting with three high councilors from the Sarasota Stake along with Elders Nelson and Spach, the Sarasota Zone Leaders.  The high councilors wanted to make sure that they are current on what President Cusick is emphasizing with the missionaries.  We also discussed the 15 name program and how the missionaries could be involved with that.  The program is intended as a way for the ward council to identify inactive members whom the missionaries can teach.  Preferably, they should teach in conjunction with members.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

New Missionary Training

The new missionaries were in training all day today.  They stayed in a hotel last night, and the APs had them up early doing exercises.  We did not join them in that :-)

After traveling to the mission office, President Cusick started by talking about the need to be completely obedient.  He referred to their missionary call letter which included the statement that they would be blessed if they dedicated all of their heart, might, mind, and strength to their missionary service.  He promised them that if they are obedient they will see miracles.  Sister Cusick then discussed the pamphlet Adjusting to Missionary Life.  I think this is an excellent pamphlet on helping them deal with the stresses they will encounter as missionaries -- and continuing on in their lives.

Elder Young, a retired nurse and the mission health advisor, gave them sme general health advice using the acronym MISS -- movement, intake (water and nutrition), sleep, and stress.  He met with each individual missionary during the day to discuss their personal health situation.  He is basically on call 24/7 to help with health and injury issues.

They then met with Sister Tollerton to receive health insurance cards, President Healey to receive their personal debit cards (they receive $175 each month), and the office Elders who manage the auto fleet.

After pictures and lunch, the assistants conducted training on meeting people, including members, teaching using the Church brochures, and street approaches to tell their "story" of why they are here.  They had role playing as part of all of the presentations.

The mission office is adjacent to the USF campus, so they had the missionaries walk to the student center for dinner.  Each companionship was given a different route, and they were to stop and talk with students along the way and tell their story.  We stayed in the mission office to help with some work, but when they returned after dinner, they were in good spirits and had enjoyed talking with the people along the way.  This was the first time this training approach has been used, and I thought it was successful.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

New Missionaries

We stayed in Tampa last night so we could help with some office tasks (the Healeys are swamped) and participate in the training of the new missionaries who arrived today.

The Healeys were in a meeting this morning, so I had my tires checked because the under inflated warning light had come on.  Good thing that I checked because there was a long nail in one of our tires. I'm glad we got that fixed given all of the driving we have been and will be doing.  Was this just fortunate or a response to a prompting to go to the tire store?

We then checked on another unused apartment and made arrangements to terminate the lease.  Since we are ending the lease early, the Church will have to pay rent for two more months.

I then started a project in the mission office working on obtaining backup keys for all of the apartments before driving to the mission home for dinner with the 13 new missionaries.  Now we are no longer the newest missionaries in the mission.  They started their day at 2:30 am, so they were a bit tired.  One of the new missionaries is from Mexico (his English is excellent).  His mother called President Cusick because she was worried about him. Fortunately, one of the sister missionaries helping to prepare the dinner is Spanish speaking and could reassure the mother that all is well with her son.

Sister Cusick (center) and the newly arrived missionaries

Monday, February 2, 2015

Apartment Hunting -- But Not For Us

We received a call from President Healey, the other counselor in the mission presidency and mission financial secretary, asking us to look for an apartment in the Bradenton area.  With the departure and arrival of missionaries this week, President Cusick is thinking about assigning two additional missionaries to the Bradenton Ward.  We spent the morning calling and visiting apartment complexes, and we found one that we quite liked.

We then drove to the mission office in Tampa where we will be the next three days meeting with the departing and arriving missionaries.  By the time we got there, things had changed, and there is now uncertainty about whether two additional missionaries will be assigned to Bradenton.  What happened is that two missionaries unexpectedly will be returning home tomorrow.  So instead of a net gain of 10 missionaries, we will have a net gain of 8.  Unless something changes by tomorrow.  We are learning the need for flexibility as things change regularly.

We ended the day with a dinner at the mission home with the departing missionaries, President and Sister Cusick, and Preisdent and Sister Healey.  The departing missionaries bore their testimonies.  We also learned that Elder Hall, one of the departing missionaries that we have become acquainted with has a girl friend who is waiting for him.  So President Cusick called her.  She works in a hair salon.  Without telling her who he was, Pres. Cusick offered her $500 and then $1000 for a haircut at the time when Elder Hall arrives at the airport in Idaho.  She refused, and then Pres. Cusick told her who he was.  It was a funny situation, and Elder Hall handled it very well.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Busy Sunday

Although not tiring, we had a long Sunday filled with meetings.  We started by attending the University Park Ward where I was able to participate in the confirming of the 91 year-old brother who was baptized on Thursday.

Then were raced back to our apartment to have lunch.  It was Fast Sunday, so we had been fasting.  After our quick lunch, we returned to the Sarasota building to meet with the Sarasota YSA branch.

The YSA branch was organized about a year ago.  There is not a university or other focal point that draws young singles to Sarasota.  So the branch draws from singles throughout the stake.  Sarasota was selected as the meeting place because it is the most central building.  Because of the large stake area, some of the units are over an hour drive away.  This makes it difficult for all of the YSAs in the stake to participate.  They have asked the other units in the stake to transfer the membership records of the YSAs in their units, and they have 250 members.  However, the average attendance is about 40.  There were 25 in their sacrament meeting on Sunday.  The branch president, who lives in Palmetto, about a 30 minute drive away, is very outgoing and dynamic realizes the challenges they face.  He told us that they have a good group of YSAs who come to the building on Monday evenings for FHE and also on Tuesdays for an Institute class.  We will try to attend those gatherings in the future.

As soon a the YSA branch meetings ended, we started the choir rehearsal.  Since the concert is in 2 weeks, the director had requested that we rehearse for 2 hours.  After that was concluded, we returned to our apartment, and I made my weekly call to my father.  We don't have TV, not a bad thing, so during our conversation, he gave me a play-by-play report of the last 2 minutes of the Super Bowl.