Tuesday, March 31, 2015

District Meetings

We always plan on attending District Meetings on Tuesdays.  We follow a rotation through the three zones that we work with.  We had intended to visit two districts in the Sarasota Zone today.  However, last evening, we found out that those District Meetings had been rescheduled because the missionaries were to have interviews with President Cusick.  So we traveled to the St. Petersburg Zone instead.

Elder Stuart is the new District Leader of the South District in the St. Petersburg Zone.  He had the missionaries do a fun activity.  He and his companion had hidden 72 Easter eggs in various rooms in the building (not the chapel).  He sent the missionaries on an Easter egg hunt.  Most of the eggs had candy in them.  However, there were four special eggs with had the four main points of his lesson.  He had those who found those eggs read the notes which served as the introduction to the lesson.

The focus of the training in the District Meetings this week is on working with ward leaders.  They were trained on asking in ward council the four questions that Elder Zwick taught the ward councils in the special training meeting a few weeks ago.  1) What are the names of the investigators who will be in church meetings today.  2) What are the names of the investigators who have baptismal dates.  3) What are the names of the ward members who are fellowshipping those investigators.  4) What are the names of those whom you will have taught in your home this week.  The last question is the most challenging for the ward council members, and the missionaries will need to keep pushing it.

Elder Stuart's District on a sugar high from their Easter egg candy.

Monday, March 30, 2015

A Normal P-Day

Today we had a normal preparation day.  I waiting until the sun came up before I went jogging (it was 45 degrees out when I got up).  After returning, I dusted and vacuumed while Renee did some laundry and went to the fitness center.  We then ran some errands.  Later in the afternoon, we drove to the "celery fields" to take some bird pictures.  This is a wetlands area which was drained and used to raise celery for many years.  Twenty years ago, the county purchased the land and restored it as wetlands to use in storm water collection.  The birds have discovered it, and it is a well-known site for bird watching and bird photography.  I only had a little time, but I was able to get a few pictures.  As you can see from the following pictures, my bird photography techniques need improvement and practice.  I'm not sure how much time I will have to try to improve.

The names of the birds are courtesy of my newly purchased Florida Birds Pocket Guide.

Black-necked Stilt with a Lesser Yellowlegs in the background.

Sandhill Crane - Three of these flew right near me.  They are big birds!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Another Busy Sunday

We attended the Venice Ward today.  Although it is a 30 minute drive from our apartment; the drive is almost all interstate, so it is probably the easiest building to get to.  Venice is a retirement community, and the ward reflects that.  Although there are some younger families, many of the ward members are snowbirds or permanent retirees.  We were told two descriptions of the ward by ward members.  1) God's waiting room, and 2) retired folks live in Sarasota and their parents live in Venice.

The people in the ward are pleasant, but I don't know how committed they are to missionary work.  They did have a baptism last week of a 9 year-old boy whose father is inactive.  He was baptized and confirmed by the ward Cubmaster, whom I am guessing is at least 75.

After visiting the ward meetings, we returned home for a couple of hours, and then drove to Gulfport.  President Cusick had asked us to take his place to speak at a youth fireside about preparing to serve as missionaries.  The fireside included the Gulfport Branch, Seminole and St. Petersburg wards.  About 50 youth were in attendance.  Renee and I spoke for about 35 minutes, and then we had about 35 minutes for questions.  Four missionaries were in attendance, so I had some of them answer questions, such as how did they get their hair cut.  Hopefully, it was a beneficial meeting for them.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Baptism and Senior Missionary Gathering

Late this morning, we drove to the Bradenton building to attend a baptism for Jessica.  She is the girl friend of a members and has been taught by Elders Nelson and Spach.  They reported that she was very enthusiastic about being baptized and invited us to attend the service.  She is very excited about being a member of the Church.  Her parents, who are not members, are less enthusiastic, but they attended her baptism.  Now her challenge is to help her boyfriend decide to serve a full-time mission.  He isn't sure he wants to go, but she wants him to go.  Hopefully that will help encourage him.

After the baptism, we drove to Tampa to join with the other senior missionaries for a social gathering.  We met at the clubhouse of the apartment complex where the Healey's are living.  The purpose of the gathering was to say good-bye to two senior couples who will be leaving shortly, the Judd's and the Ainscough's.  The Judd's have been serving as CES missionaries and running the institute program.  The Ainscough's were originally assigned to the Venice Ward, and then they were transferred to Tampa.  They have been helping the Healey's with apartments and also worked two afternoons a week at the Orlando Temple.  They have served a 6 month mission.

We returned back to our apartment in time to watch the Women's Conference Session.

Elders Spach (l) and Nelson with Jessica and her parents.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Mission Leadership Council

We participated in the monthly mission leadership council meeting today.  It was scheduled for a beach pavilion at Fort Desoto Park.  This is a nice county park located on 5 small islands.  There was a fort built there in the late-1800s to protect the entrance to Tampa Bay.  It was on my list of places to visit on P-Day, so I was excited when I found out that is where the MLC would be held.

Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate.  We started the meeting with strong winds and occasional light rain.  That made it difficult to hear was was being discussed.  Then the wind picked up.  The radar map on our phones showed a major storm front moving in, so we decided to move to the Gulfport Branch building which is 15-20 minutes drive away.  Unfortunately, we waited about 5 minutes too long, and the rain started as we were moving everything back to our cars.

We drove to the Gulfport building and discovered that half of the missionaries, including President Cusick, had driven to the wrong address.  When they figured that out and headed back to the Gulfport building, they were caught in traffic.  So it turned out that we had about a one hour break in the middle of the meeting.

The meeting itself was good.  President Cusick really considers this a council and solicits opinions and feedback from the missionary leaders -- the zone leaders, sister training leaders, and assistants.  One of the ideas generated by the missionaries was to have all the missionaries take a break from their cars for three weeks.  The idea being that if they are out on foot, on public transportation, or on bikes, they will meet more people.  So beginning with the district meetings on Tuesday, the missionaries will be asked to not drive their cars for three weeks (with some exceptions such as to drive long distances to district meetings and health challenges).  It will be interesting to see the results of the experiment.

It was good for us to find out the location of the Gulfport Branch building because we have an assignment there on Sunday.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Again Not Too Busy

To start the day, we needed to find a Post Office to mail our packages.  We discovered there aren't any that are very close.  The nearest one to us is a contract post office operated by the Amish community.  We have discovered a very large Amish and Mennonite community lives in Sarasota.  Some of them live here year round while apparently others are snowbirds and return to their farms, etc. in the midwest come spring.  As I understand the story, the US Post Office was going to close the small post office located in the area where the Amish live.  I assume the Amish don't use the internet, so mail is important to them.  So the community purchased the small post office building and operate it.  And they don't take credit cards for purchases there.

The Amish and Mennonites are quite noticeable in the community.  They wear plain clothes with not makeup on the women.  The women wear a type of bonnet' and the men mostly have beards.  Since they don't drive cars, their form of transportation is to pedal three-wheeled bicycles.  They look like large tricycles.

We had a meeting with the Sarasota Stake High Councilors who work with the missionary effort in the stake.  We drove to pick up Elder Nelson for the meeting while his companion went with another member to teach a lesson.  Because of the traffic, we were late for the meeting with the High Councilors, but we were still able to have a productive discussion.  I commented about the need for newly baptized members to have home and visiting teachers.  They understood the concerns but noted that none of them had home teachers.  And at least one was not assigned as a home teacher despite his requests.  Yes, home teaching and visiting teaching statistics are low.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Not Much Today

We didn't have any assignments today, so we focused on buying Easter gifts for our grandchildren and also birthday presents for Violet upcoming 6th birthday.  We also had enough time that I was able to go pick up the new suit that I purchased following the alterations.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

District Meetings

District meetings are held on Tuesdays, and we try to attend two of the meetings.  Typically the zones have two districts with one meeting at 10 am and one at 1 pm.  That way the zone leaders can attend both meetings -- as can we.

Because Pres. Cusick had scheduled missionary interviews on Tuesday afternoon, the two districts in the Brandon Zone both met at 10 this morning.  Since that zone was on our visiting rotation for this week, we picked one of the districts to attend.  Then since the Sarasota Zone has three districts, we decided to visit the district that meets in Sebring at 1 pm.  So our travel plan was to drive an hour to Brandon, attend the district meeting, drive and hour and a half to Sebring, attend the district meeting, and drive an hour and a half back to Sarasota.

The Brandon district meeting was fine.  The district leader was recently appointed and this was the first meeting he had conducted.  It was a good meeting.  They have a standard format of first discussing the needs of progressing investigators, assessing their baptism goals, and then training.  The training for this week was on personal conversion to the Book of Mormon and using the electronic pamphlets in teaching.  I particularly liked how he closed the meeting by asking what the missionaries had learned.  It was a nice summary.

We then raced to Sebring knowing that because of the travel time we would arrive a couple of minutes late which we did.  Again, this was the first meeting conducted by the district leader.  The general training topics were the same, but he conducted the training differently.  It was good, but I thought the first meeting was more effective because the DL had assigned several missionaries to participate by making presentations.

The unanticipated part of the day occurred on the return trip from Sebring.  There was a major accident on the primary route out of Sebring, a 6 lane highway.  They closed off the three northbound lanes and created a major traffic mess.  It took us 2 1/2 hours to travel from Sebring to Avon Park, an adjacent city.  This is normally a 10 minute drive depending on the traffic lights.  So our expected 90 minute return trip took four hours.  It was 7 pm when we finally made it back to Sarasota.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Normal P-Day

Today was just a normal preparation day.  I dusted and vacuumed our apartment.  Our big activities were shopping for Easter presents for our grandkids and going to Costco to get gas.  Costco has the best prices for gas, so whenever we are in the neighborhood we stop for gas.  And we are using a lot of gas.  I fill up at least twice a week.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Speaking in Spanish Branch

Several weeks ago, we were invited by the sister missionaries who serve in the Cortez Branch, a Spanish-speaking branch located in Bradenton, to speak in Sacrament Meeting.  They said they asked us at the request of the branch president, but I suspect they may have volunteered us.  In any case, they wanted us to speak on missionary work.  When I was called as first counselor in the mission presidency, Pres. Cusick indicated that I might be asked to speak.  If so, we were to accept the assignment, but that we were to only speak on missionary work.  So the speaking request fit perfectly with our mandate.

Since we were going to attend the Sacrament Meeting anyway, we attended the other meetings as we do when we visit a ward.  All of their meetings are conducted in Spanish, so the sister missionaries or branch members translated for us so we would understand somewhat.

To assist those who were translating our talks, we had printed them.  One of the sister missionaries, Sister Paulsen, translated for Renee when she spoke.  She seemed quite self assured as she translated.  We sent her our talks on Friday, so she and her companion had translated them as part of their language training.  Her junior companion, Sister Johnson, wasn't comfortable translating for me, so the ward Relief Society President translated.  She is retired from the military, and she did a lot of translating while in the military.

I think that it went OK.  The advantage of having someone translate is that one only has to prepare a talk for half as long :-)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

No Assignments Today

We didn't have any assignments, meetings, or appointments today, so we decided to go to the Sarasota Farmers' Market in downtown Sarasota.  It is a street market that is only open on Saturdays.  As it turned out, today there was also a crafts fair in the same general area, so we got two for one.  It was not and humid -- fortunately from my perspective -- so Renee was not interested in spending a lot of time there.  She found a necklace that she liked, but it was priced twice what she was willing to pay.

Since we were already south and near the coast, we drove to Siesta Key and Siesta Beach.  It was a good beach day, and the beach was packed.  The beach is about a quarter-mile deep, and it was filled with people.  I was not planning to stop which was good because all of the parking spots were filled.  I wanted to go to check on the construction of a new pavilion.  President Cusick has mentioned that we might reserved the pavilion for a mission meeting when it is completed.  It appeared to us that there is still much work to be done.

We then drove to the south end of Siesta Key to check on a pavilion at Turtle Beach.  That beach was not as crowded as Siesta.  But then the depth of the beach is much shorter and the sand quality is much the same as at any other beach, except Siesta.  So it is basically not as scenic.  There is a pavilion there which appears that it could accommodate about 80 people.

We have learned that if we go to the beach, it will be early in the day and not on a Saturday.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Driving Day

At the training meeting for ward councils with Elder Zwick two weeks ago, President Cusick passed out small packages of M&Ms to those in attendance and referred to the M&Ms and Members and Missionaries.  To help remind the ward leaders of that concept, he has asked the missionaries to take some additional M&Ms to their ward councils this Sunday.  We were given the M&Ms for the Sarasota Zone and asked to get them to the zone leaders to distribute to the missionaries before Sunday.

The problem with that is that the Sarasota Zone is geographically widespread.  And the Zone Leaders live at the northern end of the zone.  So we found the sisters missionaries from Sebring at the transfer meeting and asked them to take the M&Ms back to their district leader.  We delivered the M&Ms for the district that meets in Bradenton to the district leader who lives in our apartment complex.  That of course was easy.  What was left was the Venice District with missionaries who live in Sarasota, Venice, and Port Charlotte.  So we took the assignment upon ourselves to deliver the M&Ms to those missionaries.  It took us about 4 hours of driving time to complete the circuit.  I hope the ward councils appreciate the M&Ms and that they have some impact.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Transfer Day

Transfer days seem to be hectic.  At least the two we have seen so far have been hectic.  We received a text from one of the nearby sister missionaries asking if we could drive her to the mission office.  Her companion returned home on Monday, so she has been staying with the other two sister missionaries in our area.  They had received late word that both of them were to be transferred.  In missionary parlance, their apartment was being whitewashed.

So we drove to the sisters' apartment early this morning.  They had loaded all of their luggage, etc. into their car and strapped their bikes on the bike rack.  There was literally no room for the third sister, Sis. Baugh.  We picked up Sis. Baugh, and we "caravaned" to the mission office.  Sis. Baugh needed to be there early for a training meeting with President Cusick.  She will be training a newly arrived sister missionary.  They are in a Spanish-speaking area and branch.  We arranged for the new sister's bike to be transported to their apartment (I don't have a bike rack), loaded her luggage into our car, and drove back to Sarasota.

At the transfer meeting, President Cusick invited several missionaries to bear 45 second testimonies.  They were taught by Elder Zwick how to do this -- choose one principle, state the principle, bear testimony of it, and end.  The missionaries were good at doing this.  He then asked several of the senior sisters, including Renee, to bear their 45 second testimonies.  They were not as good as the young missionaries.  Most of them included at least two principles.

We thought that would be it for the day.  However, President Cusick has some M&M's that are to be delivered to all of the ward and branch councils as a follow-up to a talk he gave on M&M -- members and missionaries.  We have the M&M's for the Sarasota zone which are to be delivered to the councils on Sunday.  So I was contacting missionaries to make arrangements to deliver M&M's to them tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Midweek P-Day

Since we were busy with the departing missionaries on Monday, we didn't have a normal P-Day.  So we substituted today for our weekly preparations.  We didn't do much -- some shopping including some hand weights for Renee to use in her morning exercise.  My exercise is still just jogging through the neighborhood.  Maybe I will try a more organized routine, but for now I am enjoying the scenery of the neighborhoods and nearby golf course.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

New Missionary Arrivals

We stayed overnight in Tampa to save us some driving time.  It saved us the hour drive back to Sarasota, but it don't believe it saved us any time today.  We drove to the two district meetings in the St. Petersburg Zone.  The first was in the St. Petersburg chapel, and the second in the Clearwater/Palm Harbor chapel (about 30 minutes apart).  Both district meetings followed the same format and had basically the same training.  The district leader leads a discussion about the progressing investigators and their needs followed by training by the zone leaders and sister training leaders on the topics assigned by President Cusick.  This week the training was to be on planning.

The ZLs, Elders Williams and Terry, conducted a discussion about why planning is important and the need to invite the Spirit into our planning.  The STLs, Sisters Benson and Dalley, then led a discussion on how to plan and establishing priorities.  They used the traditional object lesson of filling a jar with unimportant items and not having sufficient room for the important items.  However, they introduced a clever twist by using Easter eggs, jelly beans, and sugar.  They also conducted a discussion about prioritizing our use of time into the four quadrants based on urgency and importance.

I find it interesting how each district has its own personality.  For example, the first group of missionaries today were much more involved in the discussion than the second group.  This may be partially a result of the district leader but probably more based on personality of the missionaries in the district.

We then drove to the mission home to welcome the new group of missionaries, 3 sisters and 7 Elders.  They are really tired when they arrive since the depart very early from MTC to drive to the airport.  Although the training that first evening is basic safety and auto orientation, I wonder how much of it sticks with them.  We received one spanish speaking sister and two international Elders, one from Venezuela and one from Tahiti.  We also have two Elders waiting for their visas to go to Brazil.

Sisters Benson and Dalley (l-r) conducting their object lesson on planning

Monday, March 16, 2015

Missionary Departure Day

Time is flying by.  Today started the second transfer cycle since our arrival.  Today the nine departing missionaries met with President Cusick for their final interview. Then they traveled to the mission home for a dinner.  Usually Sis. Cusick manages the dinner. However she is out of town with their daughter Kate for a medical checkup, so Renee and Sis. Healey were asked to take care of the dinner. The main meal was catered, and Renee made German chocolate cake for dessert.  (She is learning that there is a difference between cooking at sea level and elevation.

It was sad to say good-bye to the missionaries.  We have been able to get to know quite a few of them and have learned to love and appreciate them.  I know it is hard for President and Sister Cusick when the missionaries depart.  But tomorrow another group of missionaries arrive!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

A Busy Day

We got up early to travel to the Seminole Ward in the St. Petersburg Stake for another baptismal service.  I had met previously with Bro. Zeyala who baptized, and I wanted to be at his baptism.  There were more ward members in attendance than the baptismal service yesterday.  Perhaps that is a function of having the service on Sunday morning rather than Saturday morning.  Bro. Zelaya was then confirmed during Sacrament Meeting.

We stayed for the block of meetings in the Seminole Ward.  It could have been a Utah ward given the number in attendance.  I had heard that the wards in the St. Petersburg Stake are larger.  Based on our one observation, that is the case.

Following the block of meetings, we drove to Clearwater to meet our long time friends, the Parrino's.  We were business partners when we started a small consulting business -- just the two of us.  He now teaches at the Univ. of Florida, but they own a condo in Clearwater which they visit frequently.  After seeing their condo, we can understand why they like it.  It is right on Sand Key Beach which is adjacent to Clearwater Beach.  It has probably been 15 years since we last saw them, and it was great to catch up with them and their family.  I'm sure we will get together again.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

A Wonderful Baptism

We traveled to Sebring again -- this time to attend a baptism.  Fortunately, the baptismal service started at 10 am, so we didn't have to arise quite as early this morning.  However, it is still a 90 minute drive from our apartment to Sebring.

Bro. Provence was baptized today.  We met him last Sunday when we attended the Sebring Ward meetings.  He has a special spirit and an interesting story.  He and his now wife of 4 weeks met over the internet about 2 months ago.  She was in Utah, and he was obviously not a member of the Church.  They had long telephone conversations for two weeks, and then he flew from Florida to Salt Lake City to meet her.  After a few days together, they decided to get married.  He had expressed interest in the Church and after they returned to his home in Florida, he commenced the missionary lessons.  The missionaries reported to me that they previously not not taught anyone who was so prepared and receptive.  He spoke at the end of the baptismal service and indicated that he had been looking for many years for a church/religion but all those he had investigated seemed to be lacking.  Then the Lord put his wife-to-be in his life, and he found what he had been looking for.

It was a wonderful baptismal service.  His non-member sister attended, and one of his wife's daughters flew out from Utah.  We were pleased to be able to participate.

Bro. Carter, ward missionary who performed the baptism on left and Bro. Provence.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Relaxing Day

We didn't have any assignments, appointments, or meetings today.  That provided an opportunity for us to catch up on some personal projects.  Not to mention recovering from our long temple trip day yesterday.

Renee was able to work out in the newly renovated fitness facility in our apartment complex.  It is large and has the latest in fitness equipment.  I stuck to my normal workout routine of jogging through the neighborhood.  There are some nice homes in our neighborhood, and I have plenty of time to admire them.  My jogging pace is much slower for some reason.  Perhaps there is more air resistance at sea level.

I also spent some time revised the formatting of this blog.  Hopefully, it will now be easy to read.  I also updated some earlier posts with some pictures.

We ate dinner at Steak 'n Shake, a midwest and east coast hamburger chain.  Renee now has it at the top of her list for hamburger restaurants.  Good hamburgers, great fries, and low prices.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Temple Trip

Even though the Orlando Temple is just outside our mission boundaries, Pres. Cusick has received permission for our missionaries to attend the temple once during their missionary service.  Typically they go to the temple shortly before they are released.  Their companions also go since the missionaries are to always be with their companion.

Pres. and Sister Healey have the assignment to coordinate these temple trips which occur every 6 weeks just before missionary releases, missionary arrivals, and transfers.  This time there were more missionaries who needed to go to the temple than could be accommodated in the mission van.  So we were invited to go along, and of course drive two of the missionaries -- sisters who live in Sarasota.

The temple is a 2 hour drive for us.  Most of that distance is on interstate highways, so the drive isn't too bad.  Of course leaving at 5:30 am means there wasn't much traffic.  We were shocked to learn that the temple is located on a hill.  OK, it isn't much of a hill, but we are used to Florida topographical flatness.

We were there for the first session of the day which started at 8 am.  There were only a few patrons other than our missionary group in the session.

The Healeys and Wilsons
The following picture is of the group of missionaries outside the temple following our session.  Half of this group will be returning home next week.
After the Orlando Temple session

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Proselyting and Projects Day

The sister missionaries who live near us texted Renee this morning and asked if she could go with them to teach a lesson in the afternoon.  They were meeting with two returning-to-activity sisters and thought that Renee might be able to help teach them.  Renee is closer to their age.  So this was her first real teaching opportunity, and she enjoyed it.  After the lesson, they attempted to visit an investigator, but unfortunately she wasn't home.  They then did some street contacting which Renee did not enjoy as much.  But who does enjoy that :-)

While Renee was out with the sister missionaries, I was at home working on a project assigned to my by Pres. Cusick.  The Church has developed an Easter video, Because He Lives, and a website, HeLives.mormon.org.  They will go "live" on March 27th.  We would like to have the missionaries use this initiative in their teaching and finding efforts.  My assignment is to help prepare the missionaries for these efforts and then to help in the follow up on the initiative.  Using materials that have been sent to Pres. Cusick, I prepared a timeline of dates for aspects of the initiative and a list of possible ways the missionaries could use the video.  This list has now been sent to the missionaries.  Hopefully they will make good use of these new resources the Church is providing.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Zone Training Meeting

We met with the Sarasota Zone in a zone training meeting today.  Periodically the zones hold a training meeting for the entire zone rather than having the districts in the zone hold training meetings.  For this week, President Cusick asked that the training be conducted in zones and by the zone leaders.  The training was on Safeguards on Using Technology.  This is part of the restart of our missionaries using mini iPads.  The focus of the training is the responsibility of companions to help companions follow the safeguards guidelines.  The ultimate goal is to help the missionaries develop digital practices that will help them when they return home and don't have companions to help.

Following the zone training meeting, we stopped at a Jos. A. Bank store, and I purchased another suit.  It looks pretty much like all of the suits I have ever owned -- dark navy though it does have a muted window pane pattern.  No sense it starting a new fashion perspective at this point in my life.

Monday, March 9, 2015

P(lay ball) Day

Taking advantage of our P-Day and only living 4 miles from the Baltimore Orioles spring training center (Ed Smith Stadium), we attended a spring training game today.  The Orioles lost to the Philadelphia Phillies 1-0 in a rather long and lackluster game.  But I have always wanted to go to a spring training game.  It was a bright, sunny day.  Fortunately, we were in the shade after about the 3rd inning.  Renee was a trooper sitting in the 80 degree weather without complaining.  Over 7,600 attended the game -- a sell out.  In looking at the ticket website, most of the tickets for the spring games are already sold.  I don't know if we will try another game.  We could go to Bradenton where the Pittsburgh Pirates train.

This was our view at the game.

Following the game, I went to Jos. A. Bank to look for a suit.  I am wearing suits more often than I had expected.  The two suits I brought with me are at least 10 years old, so it is probably time to add a new suit to the rotation.  But I didn't find anything I really liked.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Visit to Sebring Ward

This is the weekend for the change to Daylight Savings Time, and we lost an hour of sleep.  So with unfortunately planning, we arranged to visit the Sebring Ward which is the furthest unit in the stake from us.  Fortunately, they do not have Ward Council on the 2nd Sunday of the month, so we didn't need to be there an hour early for that.

Sebring is almost in the middle of the state between the two coasts.  It takes us 90 minutes to drive there, most of that is on a road lane road.  Fortunately it is neither windy or narrow.  We drove past many orange groves as it is in the agricultural part of the state.

The ward appears to be a strong unit.  There was a good sized congregation.  Two investigators attended the gospel principles class, one of whom will be baptized this coming Saturday.  He married a member of the Church three weeks ago.  They met through an internet site.  She was living in Salt Lake City and he in the Sebring area.  After about three weeks of intense telephone conversations, he flew to SLC to meet her in person.  After a couple of days, they decided to get married.  After returning here following the wedding, he has been taking the missionary lessons.  He seems to have a strong testimony and is looking forward to his baptism.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Kind of a Nothing Day

We didn't have any appointments, interviews, or meetings today.  Very unusual for us lately.  So we used the time to finish organizing our apartment.  I cleaned sand off the beach toys.  We got a brick to put in the bottom of the potted plant on our lanai (it kept being blown over).  I took in a suit to have cleaned.  Lots of exciting activities.  We topped off the day with an early fish dinner at Barnacle Bill's.  We decided that we need to find another seafood restaurant.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Mission Leadership Council

We were invited to participate in the monthly Mission Leadership Council which involves the Assistants to the President, Zone Leaders, and Sister Training Leaders.  The purpose is to provide training to those leaders who then carry it back to the missionaries through the monthly district meetings.  We don't have a specific role in these meetings, and Pres. Cusick indicated that we would not need to attend all of them.  However, we enjoy meeting with the missionaries, so we don't mind it when we are invited, even though we have to leave early and drive through rush hour.

President Cusick laid out four topics for the training for this month.  In the first week, the missionaries are to be trained on safeguards for using technology.  This is likely to be a continuing training topic as we work with the mini iPads.  The second week, he would like the missionaries to focus on planning and how the missionaries can improve their planning process.  Week three should be a review of last month's training on the using the Book of Mormon and its importance.  In the last week the missionaries should be trained on working with ward and stake leaders to improve the member missionary efforts (a followup on the training by Elder Zwick).

Following that meeting, we drove to St. Petersburg where I had a special circumstances baptismal interview.  One of my assignments as a counselor in the mission presidency is as directed by the mission president to interview those desiring baptism who have unusual events in their backgrounds.  I thought there would not be very many of these situations, but this was my second such interview.

Following that interview, we returned home arriving at 9 pm.  So we put in another 12+ hour day including 3+ hours of driving time.  This is becoming our typical day.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Apartment Checking

We started our day by stopping at our local Urgent Care facility.  Renee has been bothered by sinus congestion and coughing.  After her bout with a respiratory infection as we were driving her in January, we decided out of an "abundance of caution" to have someone with medical knowledge check on her.  The diagnosis was that it may be an allergy that has morphed into a cold.  So we are to wait for a few days and hopefully it will resolve itself.  In the meantime, she is to use an anti-allergy nasal spray.  The Urgent Care facility is about a mile from our apartment, so I am sure we will be there again.

We then drove to Venice to check on the status of an apartment.  This is an apartment that a senior couple were renting.  They are now in Tampa, so President Healey wanted us to meet with the leasing agents to encourage them to lease the apartment so the Church will not have to continue making lease payments.  They assured us they are doing their best, but there is not any urgency from their perspective to rent it.

Since we were in Venice, we decided to look around at the town.  It is very much a retirement community and was initially developed as such in the 1920s.  The historic downtown is quaint with many of the old storefronts now filled by ice cream shops, etc.  We drove to the beach, which would have seemed nice had we not already seen Siesta Key Beach.  But it is a pleasant city.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Missionary Work in the Digital Age

We drove to the mission office this morning for a meeting with Pres. Cusick and several Elders and sister missionaries.  The purpose of the meeting was to discuss how to better work with digital devices in missionary efforts.  Some of the outcomes from the meeting was to ensure that the missionaries have read the materials developed by the Church on missionary use of digital devices and safeguards for using technology.  Unexpectedly, there was a long discussion on planning which arose from noting the area book/planner app on the iPads.  Apparently, many missionaries are not planning their efforts as effectively as is needed.

Following the meeting, we hung around the mission office and happened to be there when a new senior missionary couple, the McAra's, arrived.  This will be their second mission having previously served in Australia.  They will be assigned to a ward and will work specifically with that unit.

We ended the day with a nice dinner with the Cusick's and Healey's.  It is good to work with people we have known for many years.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Unusual District Meetings

As we to usually do on Tuesdays, we attended two district meetings today.  However, unbeknownst to us, two weeks ago, the zone leaders of the two districts had asked some companionships to leave the meetings because they had failed to keep some commitments that all of the missionaries had made.  The ZLs were apparently trying to motivate the missionaries.  They may have done this, but they also caused some strife and turmoil.

To perhaps mollify some ill will, the ZLs conducted a discussion of what they could do to improve.  Needless to say, there were many suggestions made by the other missionaries!  I believe that the Zone Leaders were trying to help the other missionaries grow and improve.  However, the other missionaries felt that the ZLs were just trying to improve their statistics.  One of the issues that was highlighted from the discussion was a need to better communication.  Following the two meetings, I met with the ZLs and tried to explain there are many ways to motivate people.  "Tough Love" might work with some people but not others.

Monday, March 2, 2015

P(hoto) Day

After trip to return unused beach toys from David's visit, we drove to a Robinson Nature Preserve.  This preserve is on a couple of small islands on the Tampa Bay.  It is located very near one of the apartment complexes that we seriously considered.  At least I seriously considered it as I liked the idea of living near the beach.  Renee was as enamored with the idea, and neither of us liked that we would have had a long drive to get anywhere -- longer than we have now.

We enjoyed the walk in the nature preserve.  Supposedly there are a lot of birds in the preserve, but they were mostly hiding from us.  There aren't any grand vistas around here, so my photography will be primarily flora and fauna.  Here are a couple of examples.  It was good to just get out and walk around even though the weather has become warmer and more humid.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Fun and Sad Day

David and his family stayed overnight in a hotel in Sarasota and met us at the Bradenton Ward for sacrament meeting.  We stayed at the ward for all three meetings, but they decided to go to the beach one more time.  And they were concerned that the kids would have been uncomfortable in a new Primary.  Since it was 80 degrees today, they had a very different experience than yesterday.

They returned to Siesta Key Beach which apparently was packed with people.  They had difficulty finding a parking spot.  Because the beach is white sand, they said it felt much warmer than 80 degrees.  So instead of digging in the sand as they did yesterday, they spent more time in the water.  So they had two different  but still fun for them experiences at the beach.

They returned to our apartment and cleaned up for the trip back to Minneapolis.  We had a brief Family Home Evening and Renee shared some of the experiences we have had as missionaries.

The sad part was when they left to drive back to Orlando.  We are always sad at the end of a visit with them.  However, this time we know that we will not see them again for 18 months.