Sunday, May 31, 2015

Bradenton Ward Visit

Today we visited the Bradenton Ward.  Since our last visit in February, a new bishop has been called, Bishop Walz.  He has lived in the ward for quite awhile and knows the ward and members.  I believe his wife grew up in the ward.

One of the Elders assigned to the ward, Elder Mazivila, is a new missionary from Mozambique who is learning English, and also how to ride a bicycle.  He seems to be doing well with both of those.

The ward has many less active members who have received their temple endowments but don't hold a current temple recommend.  During Priesthood Meeting, Bishop Walz presented an effort that will be made to identify 40 of those members, 20 by the Elders Quorum and 20 by the High Priests, and to insure that they are home taught every month without fail.  The plan being that they might be able to encourage those members to re-engage with the Church and obviously strengthen the ward.  Hopefully they will be successful.

Elders Franklin and Mazivila have an interesting approach to involving the members in teaching investigators.  In ward council, they announced when they have set teaching appointments for the coming week and asked the ward council members when they would like to host the teaching appointment in their home.  They were able to set several times with ward members during that meeting.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Apartment Inspection and Planning

We started the day with an apartment inspection.  This apartment is in the same complex where we live and is only two buildings away from us.  The Elders just recently moved into this apartment, so we thought we should wait until they have settled in before doing the inspection.  Fortunately, they have settled in well, and everything was clean and orderly.  However, one of the mattresses is in really bad shape.  We laid a broom across it and took a picture of how much the mattress sags in the middle.  We are going to recommend that new mattresses be purchased for several of the missionary apartments we have visited.

The rest of the day was spent in planning some upcoming training.  President Cusick has asked us to conduct a training session next Tuesday for about 12 missionaries.  These are the companions of the missionaries who will be returning home in two weeks.  He wants to meet with the returning missionaries to get them started on making their "life plans" for when they return home.  In the past, he has done this individually in interviews, but he doesn't think this gives him sufficient time.  So on Tuesday, he will meet with the departing missionaries for about three hours, and we will need to conduct training for their companions during that time.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Hair Day

Renee had an appointment to have her hair cut this morning.  So I dropped her off and then drove a short distance to Siesta Beach to take some pictures.  This picture was taken about 11 am on a Friday after the "snowbirds" have returned home.  There were still a lot of people on the beach.  But as you can see from the picture, the beach is very deep and can accommodate hundreds of people.

A view of Siesta Public Beach, a great beach.

I decided to take it easy today because while I was jogging this morning, I stumbled and did a 5 point landing on the sidewalk -- palms, knees, and side of my face.  My face was bruised and I have "road rash" on my knees and palms.  My self diagnosis is that I will live, but I'm not sure about my glasses.  Renee thinks I should just trash them rather than try to have them realigned.

This is not their normal adjustment!

Here are a couple of views from the lanai on our apartment.  We don't use the lanai much because it has been too hot.

Sunset from the side of our apartment building

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Catch Up Day

With no assignments, today was another opportunity to catch up on some personal tasks that need to be completed.  One of those tasks was trying to deal with a leak in our sprinkler system at home in Utah.  Hopefully, we have someone who will fix it for us.

They have finally finished the painting of all of the apartment buildings in our complex.  In addition to painting the exteriors as shown in the pictures below, they also painted the interior hallways (cream), the railings (black), and the doors (white).

Our building before painting

The trim on our building being painted.
The end result

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

New Missionary Training

President Cusick decided to try a different approach with the new missionary training for the last set of missionaries to arrive.  The new missionaries arrive on Tuesday afternoon.  The previous approach was to do a little training at the mission home following a welcome dinner.  That was followed by a full day of training at the mission office.  Then on Thursday morning, another training session and the transfer meeting at 10 when they are assigned to their new companion.

This time, the full day of training on Wednesday was omitted, and the transfer meeting occurred on Wednesday.  The plan was to have the new missionaries return to the mission office for a day of training after they have been serving for a few weeks.

Today was the day for the recently arrived missionaries and their companions to return for training.  President Cusick expanded it to include all of the missionaries who have not yet completed the 12 week new missionary training program.  Basically that was the last two sets of arriving missionaries.  For the training, we had four different 30 minutes blocks, and the missionaries rotated through all four.  In our block, we taught about personal and apartment cleanliness and Sister Cusick taught on exercise and nutrition.  The other blocks were Pres. Cusick on using iPads, Pres. and Sister Healey taught on working with members, and Elder and Sister McAra (senior missionary couple) and the Assistants on making first impressions and professional demeanor.  Following lunch, President Cusick asked each missionary to state something that he/she had learned and what he/she will do differently tomorrow.  I thought that was an effective way to summarize the meeting.

He then asked three Elders who will be released in two weeks to share their testimonies.  We have two Elders who are assigned to us temporarily while awaiting approval for visas to Brazil.  One received his visa a week ago and will be leaving in two weeks to go to Brazil.  He was also asked to share his testimony.  President Cusick asked the other "visa waiter" to share his testimony.  After he bore his testimony, President announced that he had just received a text from SLC, and the other visa has been approved, so both will be leaving for Brazil.  The second missionary was very emotional.

The recently arrived missionaries, companions, and those training them.

Following the training meeting, we had a Mission Presidency meeting.  During that meeting, we were asked to go to a local hospital where one of our missionaries, Elder Dance, had been admitted the day before following stomach pains.  They initially thought it was appendicitis but discovered a genetic intestinal issue.  We were asked to meet with the doctor who was to give him a prognosis.  The condition is not life-threatening so after consulting with his family, including a brother who is a radiologist, he decided to wait until after he is released from his mission for any surgery.  He may have stomach pains again, but at least he will know what is causing it.

Elder Dance and his cousin, Elder Hawkes at the hospital.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Zone Training

President Cusick was not satisfied with the training on planning that was done at the first zone conference last week.  So we were assigned to do training on planning for the Sarasota Zone today.  Rather than holding individual district meetings, the entire zone met together.  Well, most of the zone.  The Elders in Lake Placid and Sebring who don't have cars were not able to join with us.  So they connected via Skype.

The purpose of the training was to get the missionaries committed to using the planning worksheet and weekly schedule that has been developed for them.  Based on my calculations, the missionaries have 49 hours each week for proselyting.  The rest of the time is sleeping, studying, preparation, eating, and so forth.  The concept is to use the time as efficiently as possible.  So the missionaries have a prescribed weekly schedule.  Then for each day, they should plan to be contacting any time they are not teaching.

Following the meeting, we went to Costco to purchase some food as part of our assignments for tomorrow.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Preparation Day

Today was both Preparation Day and Memorial Day.  To celebrate, we didn't do anything!  We have training assignments for tomorrow and Wednesday, so we spent most of the day preparing for those.  We did do our normal Monday apartment cleaning and some laundry.  But mostly we were preparing to teach on planning and personal conduct over the next couple of days.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sarasota Ward

We visited the Sarasota Ward today.  Since our initial visit, a new bishop has been called for this ward, Bishop Moll.  Unfortunately, he and his family are on vacation, so he was not in attendance.  This is a large, well functioning ward.  However, perhaps half of the ward members are inactive.  The average sacrament meeting attendance is only around 33%.  They have four Elders assigned to the ward, but they don't have a lot of baptisms.  They expected to have 4 or 5 investigators in meetings today, but I believe only one came.  And she only stayed for sacrament meeting.  So the missionary work is progressing, but slowly.

Bro. Lassen and Renee
We previously showed a picture of Brother Lassen on his baptism day of January 29.  He is our 91-year-old member who remains active and Renee spent some time talking to him before sacrament meeting today.  He told her that God told him he will live to be over 100.  Here is Renee's story about him.

We got to know Brother Lassen when the sister missionaries asked us to take him home from church in January, so, of course, we wanted to attend his baptism.  He has had an interesting life--7 wives, different church memberships, motorcycle accident that left him somewhat disabled, etc.  However, the most interesting thing happened following his baptism.  People went up to him after his confirmation and kissed him on the cheek.  I thought that was somewhat unusual but didn't think much about it until I went up to greet him and found myself kissing him on the cheek.  Which, by the way, I have never done before.  As we were walking out, the sister missionaries rushed up to me and asked me if he had requested that I kiss him.  I said no, wasn't I supposed to.  They said that he told them that he would know if it was the true church if he was given a holy kiss.  Evidently, he had been reading in Romans 16:16 where it says:  "Salute one another with an holy kiss.  The churches of Christ salute you."  The look on his face as I gave him a "holy kiss" confirmed that he had found what he was looking for.  God moves in mysterious ways!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

A Shopping Day

We didn't have any assignments for today, so we completed some self-imposed shopping assignments.  Renee needed to return some items to stores in the nearby shopping mall, University Town Center, so we also looked at some sales that were going on for Memorial Day.  But we didn't find anything..

We at dinner at the Steak and Shake.  An inactive members is one of the managers there, and she is quite friendly.  Maybe during our time here, we can help her return to activity.  She says that she was once very active.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Another Easy Day

Our big accomplishment for today was to check another missionary apartment.  This apartment was in Bradenton,  We had waited to inspect this one because the missionaries just moved into this apartment a couple of weeks ago.  They moved from a two bedroom apartment to a one bedroom in the same complex.  It is a tight fit for them in the much smaller one bedroom apartment, but they have it well organized.  It was much cleaner than most of the apartments we visit.  They happened to be a home eating lunch when we arrived.  They were eating a healthy lunch of lasagna with a big bowl of fruit.

After seeing the lasagna, Renee was in the mood for Italian food, so we went to a local Italian restaurant for a late lunch.  Our waitress is a member of the Church and she recognized us.  The restaurant was not very busy, so we chatted with her while we were eating.  She just graduated from high school, and she told us about the lack of standards in her classmates.  She said that her friends knew her standards and seemed to respect them.  She will be attending Snow College in the fall and is very excited about that.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Catch Up Day

We didn't accomplish much missionary work today, but we were able to take care of some of our temporal needs.  We did some grocery shopping, took a very wrinkled suit to the cleaners, etc.  Not a very exciting day, but we were able to get some needed things done.

After dinner, I decided to see if I could get some bird pictures as the sun was setting.  I drove a short distance to the "celery fields," a wastewater catchment area with lots of birds.  Or at least it had lots of birds when we went there before.  This time many of the ponds were dry and there were very few birds.  I did find one though.  As best as I can tell from my bird identification cards, this is a tricolored heron.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Zone Conference in Tampa

The challenge for today's zone conference was getting there.  The conference was held in the Tampa Stake Center which is north of Tampa.  To get there, we have to either drive through Tampa or take a circuitous route around the city.  For the last zone conference held there, I took the circuitous route.  The more direct route through the city is shorter and supposedly takes less time.  So I decided to take the risk and try that route.  That proved to be a mistake.

According to Google Maps, it was supposed to take us 1:15 to get there.  Since we would be traveling during rush hour, I thought it would take 1:30, so we left a 7 am for a 9 am meeting.  Unfortunately, traffic was awful.  The GPS took us off the Interstate and through city streets to avoid some severe traffic problems.  We finally arrived at 8:50 am.  President Healey called to find out where we were because they wanted to start the meeting early.  But we made it, so I guess that is most important.

The program for the training was basically the same as yesterday.  For some reason, we both felt that the conference was better today.  Perhaps that was because there were only two zones, Tampa and St. Petersburg.  Or perhaps we had yesterday to practice.  I think that everyone altered their presentation from yesterday.

Again following the lunch prepared by the stake Relief Society, they had car inspections.  I had to chuckle as they gave some of the young sisters the inspection sheet  and told them to complete it.  They didn't know what to do.  So I helped some of them check their tire tread depth and air pressure.  Some of the Elders showed them how to check the fluid levels, oil, transmission, and wiper fluid.  And again, an Elder locked his keys in the trunk of his car.  Maybe we need to warn them about that possibility.  At least this time, they found a solution that didn't involve us driving around.

Missionaries doing their car inspections.

Zone Conference in Brandon

Today was the first of two zone conferences.  Today's conference was held in the Brandon Stake Center which is about an hour drive for us.  Three zones were involved which corresponds to three stakes, Brandon, Lakeland, and Sarasota.

The training was focused on helping the missionaries develop confidence.  President Cusick, Sister Cusick, the Assistants to the President spoke along with us.  President Cusick presented some information he has received from Elder Zwick on encouraging the missionaries to use their time more effectively.  The Assistants presented on how to be more confident in finding.  Sister Cusick spoke about trust and accountability.  The Healeys spoke on working with ward councils.  And our presentation was on preparing to teach.

Following the three hour meeting and lunch, they did car inspections.  During that process, one of the Elders locked his car keys in the trunk of his car.  So we ended up driving to the mission office to retrieve the spare key and driving back to unlock their car.  That process took a couple of hours.  Just another unexpected deviation from our plan for the day.

Monday, May 18, 2015

An Easy P-Day

For our Preparation Day, we decided to go to a local aquarium, Mote Aquarium.  It was not the most amazing aquarium that we have been to, but it was interesting.  They have two manatees, not sure that I have seen manatees before.  Obviously, manatees are indigenous to this area since we live in Manatee County.  They also have a large shark tank with several different species of sharks

Our other task was to finish preparing our presentation for zone conferences in the next two days.  We have 15 minutes to teach about preparing to teach.  Since I went way long in my last presentation, I am committed to staying within our allotted time.  So we timed our presentation and cut out material to get to the 15 minute time frame.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Palmetto Ward

We visited the Palmetto Ward today.  From my perspective, this is one of the strongest wards in the stake.  As usual, we attended the block of meetings plus the ward council.  One of the good things about this ward, at least for now, is the ward's sacrament meeting is at 11 am with the ward council at 9:30.  So we were able be a bit more relaxed as we got ready to attend the meetings.

This is an unusual ward in that they have a very strong group of priests.  One has already received his mission call to serve in Portugal.  Two have had their mission assignments made and are awaiting the arrival of their call in the mail.  Another had his mission application interview with the stake president on Sunday, so he will be receiving his call in a few weeks.  A fifth is planning on leaving this fall.  That is a lot of missionaries from any ward, let alone one in the "mission field."

R.S. popcorn gift to Palmetto Ward visitors

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Caught Up

With no assignments again, we were able to finish our catching up.  I have no recorded all of the expenses we have incurred so far.  I don't think that I will wait for four months before recording the next set of expenses.  Maybe once a month would be better :-)

Friday, May 15, 2015

Catching Up

We didn't have any assignments for today, so we spent most of the day trying to catch up on our own apartment.  My task is to attempt to organize our financial records.  Unfortunately, the world has not stopped while we have been here, so I have to try to keep up with organizing our financial affairs.  This includes tracking all of our daily expenses.  For income tax purposes, we can include our missionary expenses as charitable contributions.

I have been trying to use a charge card for as many of our expenses as I can.  I have saved all of the individual receipts.  So my next task has been to organize them and then create an electronic record of them.  The idea being that I can just have the computer give me a list of the expenses when I am preparing my taxes next year.  It is a good theory, but it will require me to enter all of the information into the computer.  I figure it will be easier to enter the data occasionally rather than wait and do it all at once.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Another Apartment Inspection

We finished our apartment inspections for the week with one more today.  We didn't have far to drive for this one.  It is a new apartment in the complex where we used to live in Sarasota.  There are two sets of Elders living in that complex.  This set of Elders was in a three bedroom unit on a second floor.  They are now in a one bedroom unit on the third floor, the same as the other Elders in the complex.  They don't mind the reduction in floor space, but they don't like having to lug their bicycles up to the third floor.  Their apartment was clean and orderly, so we didn't have much to tell them. 

One of their mattresses was not in good shape and probably should be replaced.  I told them that I feel badly about having them take everything off their bed, so we can take a picture of their mattress.  One of the Elders said not to worry about it; that he only makes his bed because he has been told to do it.  He said when he was at home, he never made his bed.  Perhaps that explains why many of the apartments are disorderly and cluttered.  They are just continuing how they lived at home.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Apartment Inspections

We had four apartment inspections today, all in the Brandon Zone.  So it took us about 45 minutes to drive to the general area.  We inspected one apartment in Riverview, one in Brandon, and two in Valrico.  The Valrico apartments are both in the same complex, so that made it easier for us.

None of these apartments are great.  The Riverview apartment is different in that it is two floors.  The two bedrooms (one used as a study room) are upstairs.

All of these apartments are occupied by Elders, and it showed.  While not really dirty, they were "untidy."  They all had dirty dishes in the sink.  We followed the new directive and took pictures of their mattresses, none of which were in great condition.  I feel creepy enough letting myself into their apartments.  It is even worse to have to take the bedding off their beds to take pictures of the mattresses.  We try to make their beds similar to how they had them, but I'm sure it is disturbing to the missionaries.  We do leave a note for them explaining that we inspected their apartment and noting what we found.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

District Meeting

President Cusick changed the schedule for district meetings beginning today.  All of the meetings will be held on Tuesdays at 10 am.  That means we will only be able to attend one district meeting each week rather than the two that we have been able to attend in the past.

Today we drove south to Venice to participate in the district meeting there which includes the missionaries in Sarasota, Venice, and Port Charlotte Wards.  It was a good meeting.  The district leader, Elder Morris, conducted the meeting and lead the training.  He tried to get the other missionaries involved in discussions, but it is a quiet group.  The training was on planning.  They all looked at each others' iPads for their Area Book/Planner app.  The Church has developed a nice app for them to use to maintain their plan for each day along with information on investigators they are teaching.  The intent is for them to fill in their daily schedule with as much teaching as they can and then fill in the remainder of the day with personal contacting (the new term for tracting).

Following the meeting, we drove to the Sisters' apartment to take pictures of their mattresses.  President Cusick thinks that most of the mattresses should be replaced.  So we are now going to be taking pictures of the mattresses so we can get a better understanding of their condition.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Preparation Day

We are starting to get our schedule and routine to the point where we can plan on activities on P-Day.  Today we decided to go to the beach again.  This time we went to Lido Beach, a less famous but in our view equally nice beach.  The beach is on Longboat Key which is immediately north of Siesta Key with the more famous beach.  Our plan was to be at the beach from about 10:30 to 12:30 to avoid the most intense sun.  However, as it turned out we were there during the peak sun hours of 11:30 to 1:30.  I tried a new sunscreen today  -- a spray on.  It took us awhile to figure out how to get the spray to work.  Unfortunately, we weren't very good in spraying it on my legs and shoulders, so I have a bit of sunburn.  At least we were able to find a few interesting seashells.  There are more and larger seashells on the beaches here than we have found on our travels to other beaches, including Hawaii.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mothers' Day

Mothers' Day is a big deal for the missionaries because they are allowed to call home.  Most of the missionaries seem to have made arrangements to go to a member's home to access the internet to call using Skype or Facetime.

Since I still call and speak with my father each Sunday evening as I have done for the last 15 years or so, there wasn't anything unusual for us.  Well, maybe the unusual aspect is that I remembered that it was Mothers' Day and bought a card for Renee.  I have been hounding her for the last several days to pick a restaurant for a special dinner, but she said there wasn't anyplace that she was dying to go.

We have completed the rotation through all of the Sarasota Stake units, so we are beginning the rotation again.  We attended the University Park Ward which is the ward where we actually reside.  This is also the ward where there have been some issues with insensitivity by the missionaries.  We spoke with several ward members, and hopefully have soothed the troubled waters a bit.  During the third hour of the block, they wanted all of the sisters to attend Relief Society.  The brethren were assigned to teach a combined youth meeting and also teach the Primary.  I went to the Primary session and participated in their singing and other activities.

Relief Society Mothers' Day treat
Mothers' Day Relief Society lesson quotes

Littlest plant ever, gift from David

Saturday, May 9, 2015

An Easy Day

Our only task for today was to delivery some apartment supplies to one of the sets of Elders in Sarasota.  So we didn't have far to drive.  And since it was the apartment that we lived in when we first arrived, we knew exactly how to get there.  They needed some Books of Mormon, pamphlets, a mop, and some bowls.  We picked up those items while we were at the mission office on Friday.

The rest of the day we spent in our apartment doing some cleaning.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Specialized Training Meeting (for Sisters)

We drove to Tampa this morning to participate in a specialized training meeting just for the sister missionaries.  Pres. Cusick has been working on the agenda for this meeting for some time and had sent out two different agendas with different assignments for Renee and me.  As it turned out, he had a third agenda, and he led a discussion of how to measure success as a missionary.  He referred to the list of success factors in Preach My Gospel.  In my words, none of the factors are measurable or quantifiable.  And they are all things that we can control, such as working efficiently and inviting the Spirit.  His point was that our efforts determine whether we are successful -- not the number of lessons taught or baptisms.  We can't count those because people have their agency.  We can only control what we do.  If we are discouraged because of lack of success, then we don't understand how the Lord measures success.

The afternoon was spent on more earthly concerns with workshops on dress and grooming.  The concern is that the sisters may not be always presenting a professional image -- even though that is difficult to do while riding a bike in a skirt.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Apartment Inspections

We thought we were going to do two apartment inspections today, both in Sarasota.  Unfortunately, I had picked up the wrong key from the mission office last week, so we only had the key to one of the apartments.  As it turned out, the Elders were in the apartment anyway, even though it was after lunch.  Their apartment was in good shape.  It should have been.  It was the apartment that we lived in while looking for our permanent apartment, and we left it in good condition.

We thought we would stop at the other apartment anyway just in case the Elders might be at home.  However, as we arrived, we could see someone inside the apartment painting it.  Apparently the Elders have moved to a new apartment, so it didn't matter that I had the wrong key.  We knew they were going to move, but we didn't know they already had done so.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Not Much Action

We only had one appointment today, but it was an important one.  Apparently, the Elders in the University Park Ward had offended some ward members by constantly asked them for referrals.  So our appointment was to meet with the bishop to see if we could soothe the troubled waters.

We ended up with a 90 minute meeting with the bishop that I thought was quite positive.  He was complementary of the Elders dedication and desire to find people to teach.  He said that sometimes the missionaries are overly zealous but they are also young and lack some sensitivity that comes with experience.  He asked how other wards are utilizing the missionaries.  He clearly wants the ward members to be involved in missionary work, and we discussed some ways to do that.  He is happy with the missionaries' efforts.  We will attend the ward on Sunday and see how the ward members feel.

Today was Renee's birthday.  I have been asking her to select a restaurant for a dinner both for her birthday and upcoming Mothers' Day.  She said there wasn't anyplace in particular that she wanted to go, so she selected Steak and Shake, our new favorite hamburger place, for her birthday dinner.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

District Meetings

As usual on Tuesday, we attended district meetings.  In the morning, we attended the meeting in Bradenton and then drove to Sebring for a meeting in the afternoon.

The training for this week was on not being lukewarm (Revelations 3:15-16).  They were again trained on the need to develop Christlike attributes and to allow those to show through in their contacting and teaching.  In both districts, the missionaries were to describe one or two attributes with examples that they see in their companions.  It was an interesting exercise in complementing one's companion.

One the way back from Sebring, we stopped at the blueberry farm.  We had a pleasant conversation with the owner as we purchased 5 pounds of blueberries and two bottles of fruit spread (blueberry and key lime).  I gave him a pass along card for Because He Lives and also took a picture of his blueberry patch.

The BellaBlue Berry Farm

Monday, May 4, 2015

Preparation Day

We decided to go to the beach before it gets too hot.  We drove to Siesta Key Beach and were able to find a parking spot.  I guess the key is to go in the morning, on a week day, after many of the snow birds have returned home.  There were still a lot of people there, but the beach is very large.

The only problem was the wind was blowing, not hard but enough to blow the fine sand and cover shoes, towels, etc.  We only planned on staying for a couple of hours so as to avoid getting sunburned.  Fortunately our plan worked.  We got a little pink even with sunscreen but not really burned.  It was a pleasant experience, and we will do it again -- on a less windy day.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Arcadia Branch Visit

Arcadia is the last unit of the Sarasota Stake on our visit rotation.  I saved the Arcadia Branch for the last because there are no missionaries assigned there.  And I expected they would tell me about that.  They did, but they weren't too upset about it, particularly when I told them the are other units without missionaries.

The branch is small but seems to have some strong members.  Unfortunately, just not too many of them.  The branch president is "imported" from Port Charlotte about a 45 minute drive to the south.  Several of the other brethren have served as branch president in the past.  There were only 38 in Sacrament Meeting, including us and a visiting family of five.  The branch president was apologetic and indicated that two families who regularly attend were absent.  He said they usually have over 40 in Sacrament Meeting.

We had 11 in our combined R.S./Priesthood class.  We were able to present what we had prepared.  After talking about using the pamphlets, we demonstrated how to share them with others.  We divided them into groups of 2 and had them practice.  One sister said he hated role playing and basically checked out.  On the other hand, another sister came up to us afterwards and asked for additional copies of the pamphlets because she wants to share them with others.

After the meetings, the ward mission leader invited us to have lunch with him and his family and then gone on a missionary visit with him.  A part-member family moved into his mother's neighborhood, and he has been working with them.  The wife was sealed in the temple many years ago but was divorced.  She has been inactive for the 27 years that she and her current husband have been married.  He has had a variety of interesting experiences including attending a theology school in Scotland and serving as an Episcopal priest.  He left that because he felt that his fellow priest were more interested in their careers than serving the members.  He has received a copy of the Book of Mormon and has been reading it.  While we visited, his wife said that she needs to get a "temple divorce" from her previous husband so that they can be sealed in the temple.  I spoke a bit about the Restoration and left a pamphlet with him.  I think he is genuinely interested in the Church, and she will continue to push him.  He has already reduced his smoking and beer drinking without having received any formal lessons on the Word of Wisdom.  If he continues to progress, we will need to figure out how to get some full-time missionaries to meet with them.

Early Mothers' Day cards presented to Renee by the Branch Mission Leader's children

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Lesson Preparation

We didn't have any assignments for today which was good.  We will be visiting the Arcadia Branch tomorrow, and the branch president has asked us to teach a lesson for the combined Relief Society and Priesthood meeting.  Our plan is to have the members do some role-playing on giving a pamphlet to a neighbor or inactive member.  We outlined our lesson and practiced the role playing ourselves so we could demonstrate how it might be done.  I will be the inactive, and Renee will demonstrate giving me a pamphlet on the Plan of Salvation.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Missionary Leadership Council

Despite getting rained out last month, President Cusick decided to try holding the monthly Missionary Leadership Council (MLC) at the beach, specifically Fort DeSoto Park.  The weather cooperated, and we had a good meeting.  And the missionaries seemed to enjoy being at the beach.  Actually most of the time, we were at the park adjacent to the beach in a roofed picnic area.

As part of the training, Pres. Cusick assigned us, the Healeys, Sis. Cusick, and the Assistants, to conduct a 12 minute training with the missionaries rotating between us.  They were organized by zone, so we had the zone leaders and the sister training leaders in a group of four.  Our assignment was to talk about iPad reviews and companionship inventory.  We were supposed to have a role playing aspect to our discussion, but we found that we didn't have time for that.  I introduced the Stop/Start/Continue framework for them to use in their companionship inventory sessions, and they seemed to like that.

After the formal training and dinner, we went to the beach.  I think that Pres. Cusick had planned to present some additional instruction.  However, the wind was blowing and it was hard to hear.  So we sat on the beach and ate ice cream sandwiches which we had brought.  We ended the meeting as the sun set and sent them back to their areas.  All in all, I thought it was a good day with good training.

On the beach at the conclusion of the Mission Leadership Council.