Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Zone Training

All of the Sarasota Zone missionaries met in the Sarasota building for a training meeting at 10 am.  Fortunately, the Elders in Sebring and Lake Placid were able to find a ride, so they were able to participate in person.  Neither of those sets of Elders have a car, and Elders are not allowed to ride in the Sisters' car.  At our last zone training meeting, they participated via Skype.  I suppose that is better than not participating, but not much.  So I was glad that they were able to meet with us.

Before I started the training, the zone discussed their goal for baptisms for July.  The three districts huddled and then they each set a district goal.  The total zone goal was 17.  This is double the number of baptisms that the zone has had in any previous month.  However, all of the missionaries were confident based on their progressing investigators that they could achieve the goal.  It will be interesting to seem how they do.

The training was in three parts; working with the Ward Council, using time efficiently, and focusing on our intent.  We used the Handbook, Chapter 5, to highlight the responsibilities of the Ward/Branch Councils for member missionary work.  To emphasize the need to use time efficiently, we showed that 40% of their week is sleeping, 30% is preparation, study, and meetings, and only 30% is available for proselyting.  To emphasize the need to focus on our real intent, we showed a clip entitled "The Parable of the Oranges" from a YSA devotional talk given in January 2015 by Bro. Randall L. Rudd, counselor in the General YM Presidency.

I think the training went well, but there was less interaction than I had hoped for.  The most questions came when I was talking about priesthood keys relative to who holds the keys for missionary work -- stake presidents, bishops, and mission presidents.  That was not a critical part of the training, but they had a lot of questions about keys.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Preparation Day for Training

President Cusick asked us to conduct a training meeting for the Sarasota Zone tomorrow.  I spent some time working on a lesson plan.  He asked us to drive to the Mission Office today for a Mission Presidency meeting where he provided more information on what he would like the training to be.

We had a good meeting discussing the training topics and some other administrative issues concerning the missionaries.  I won't have to make too many changes to my lesson plan, but I do need to add some additional topics.

We learned at the meeting that one of the senior couples is returning home because he has to have a kidney removed.  We had enjoyed getting to know them, and the missionaries quite liked them.  I suppose that is one of the challenges for senior couples.  Fortunately, our health is good.  President Cusick offered for us to move into the apartment in Tampa where they had been living.  We will look at it, but we like where we are living.  And moving to Tampa would not eliminate the long distances that we have to travel.

Following the meeting, we drove back through rush hour traffic to return to Sarasota.  I was surprised that we didn't have any traffic delays.  However, there was a massive backup going north because of an accident.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Visit to Sebring Ward

The reason we needed to fill up the gas tank yesterday is because we drove to Sebring to attend the ward there.  It is a 90 minute drive and their Ward Council started at 7 am.  So we needed to leave Sarasota at 5:30 am which meant that I got up at 4 am.  Fortunately there isn't much traffic on the two lane highway to Sebring that early in the morning.

Bishop Austin decided to have Ward Council meet for 90 minutes rather than the usual 60 minutes.  He needs more time for the Ward Council members to be involved in the planning for sacrament meetings and to discuss the progress of those on the New and Returning Members list.

The Sister missionaries had an investigator, a Jewish woman, attend Sacrament Meeting.  She got to hear a report on Scout camp.  Fortunately, some of the Scouts who were assigned to speak didn't show up.  So they called on a young woman to report on the stake youth conference and then the 1st Counselor in the bishopric spoke about they importance of the ward family and Jesus Christ, our Savior.  Those messages were good for her to hear.

Following the block of meetings, we inspected the Elders' and Sisters' apartments.  An interesting story about the picture of the ties, shown below, came from Elder Stuart.  His girlfriend went to people that she considered to be leaders and asked them to donate a tie and their favorite scripture.  She then sewed the scripture on the backside of the tie and gave them to Elder Stuart for Christmas. 

We then drove back home.  I was having trouble staying awake, so I stopped at a farm entrance to walk around.  That did the trick, and we arrived back home safely.

Elder Stuart's Ties

Saturday, June 27, 2015


We drove to Port Charlotte for a baptism this morning.  The brother who was baptized is originally from Hawaii, so we enjoyed comparing our Laie experiences with his Kaneohe experiences.  He is married and has 8 children.  The Elders who have been teaching the family expect that some of his children will be baptized.  In addition to all of his family, he had a brother and good friend and their families in attendance.  The Elders also had an investigator come.  All in all, there was a very large turnout for the the baptismal service.

I took a long way back so that we could see some of Port Charlotte.  The only thing that we have seen in the city is the LDS chapel.  So we meandered back doing some sightseeing along the way.  But the scenery looked just like the rest of south Florida.

Since we had to drive past Costco we stopped to get gas and stock up on supplies.  Can't miss an opportunity while we are in the neighborhood.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Study Day

President Cusick asked us to conduct a zone training meeting for the Sarasota Zone next Tuesday.  The general topic is Chapter 5 of Handbook 2 of Church's general instructions.  Chapter 5 is entitled "The Work of Salvation in the Ward and Stake" and discusses the role of the Ward Council in missionary work.  President Healey will conduct the training in the Lakeland Zone.  The other three zones will meet with President Cusick in the Mission Office.

So I spent the day reading the chapter and a couple of associated chapters.  I have put together a general outline of the training.  However, we have a Mission Presidency Meeting on Monday, so I may get some additional guidelines from President Cusick at that meeting.

During the afternoon while I was studying, Renee took the car and ran a few errands.  Of course, I was a bit nervous about her driving in still unfamiliar territory.  But she did just fine.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

More Inspections and More Driving

Today we drove to Tampa to inspect two apartments.  We are beginning to get the inspecting process down, and it takes us about 30 minutes in an apartment, longer if there are issues.  The big challenge is that the apartments are at least 30 minutes apart.  Unfortunately, the route that the GPS directed us to follow between the apartments today wasn't available because of construction and detours.  So instead of the expected 30 minutes it took over 45 minutes.

I didn't want to drive back in the midst of rush hour traffic, so after the last apartment inspection, we went to a large shopping mall, International Plaza.  I think this might be the largest mall in Tampa.  Of course, all malls seem about the same to me.  Most of the stores are the same as in the University Town Center Mall near us.  I guess the biggest difference is there is a Nordstrom's in the International Plaza.  We ate dinner there, and then had an easy 60 minute drive back to Sarasota.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Delivery Day

Our big accomplishment today was delivering a bicycle to a newly arrived Sister, Sis. Bryan.  She arrived last week.  After a week in Tampa, President Cusick decided to move her to the Cortez Branch.  This makes sense since she was called to be Spanish speaking, and the Cortez Branch is one of the two Spanish speaking branches in the Sarasota Stake.

However, the two Sister Missionaries already assigned to the Cortez Branch lived in a small, one-bedroom apartment.  It was far too small for three sisters.  So the sisters swapped apartments with the two Elders assigned to the Bradenton Ward which meets in the same building as the branch.  So the Elders are now in the small apartment and the Sisters in a larger, two-bedroom apartment.  The disadvantage for the Sisters is that they are 2 1/2 miles from the church building instead of two blocks which the Elders now have.  Nothing is a simple as it may seem at first.

Our role in this was to bring Sis. Bryan's bicycle from Tampa.  We picked up the bike yesterday when we were at the Mission Office.  Since we don't have a bike rack, we had to fit it inside our car.  Fortunately it just fit.

On our way back from Bradenton, we drove to Anna Marie Island to look at a couple of beaches we have not been to yet.  These are reported to be some of the nicest beaches in the area.  They are nice, and I think appeal more to locals than tourists.  There are some pine trees along the beach and families were barbecuing and picnicking in the shade.

We also had a coupon for a free orchid from a plant shop.  We picked out an oncidium orchid which we have not before.  Supposedly it is easy to care for; we will see.  Even though the orchid was free, we needed to purchase a pot for it.  So it wasn't so free after all.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Traveling Day

We started our day by driving to the mission office to participate in a district meeting.  One of the districts in the Brandon Zone meets in the Temple Terrace building which also houses the mission office.  (The building houses in addition two regular wards, the Tampa YSA branch, and the Institute for the University of South Florida.)  The focus of the district meeting was on teaching with the Book of Mormon.

After the district meeting, we picked up some apartment keys from the mission office and drove to the northernmost areas of our mission, Brooksville and Dade City, for apartment inspections.  These apartments were mostly in good shape which is nice to find.

We then had to drive 80 miles back to our apartment.  Since we were driving through the usual afternoon thunderstorms, it took almost two hours to return.  All together, I figure that we drove about 200 miles today.  Though we joke about being the traveling senior missionaries, that really is an apt description of what we do.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Relaxing P-Day

We didn't do anything exciting for our preparation day.  First the normal, P-Day activities of cleaning our apartment, vacuuming, dusting, etc.  Then since it was too hot to do anything outside, we drove to the mall near Costco to return some items.  The mall has a Sears with a large Lands' End department, so it is convenient to return the on-line Lands' End purchases. While in the neighborhood, we of course went to Costco for gas (again), and some food supplies.

Not much to write about.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Visit to Port Charlotte Ward

We drove to the Port Charlotte Ward for meetings today.  This is the southernmost ward in our mission.  It is a good sized ward, but like all of the wards here, the number on the membership records far exceeds the number who attend.

Because it was Fathers' Day, they didn't have Ward Council, so we just attended the regular three hour block.  Elder Menlove, who just arrived two weeks ago, spoke in Sacrament Meeting.  He gave a very short talk and said he has already learned the importance of obedience.

Following the meetings, we visited the two missionary apartments in Port Charlotte for inspections.  Both of them are in excellent shape.  The Elders live in a small house about two blocks from the church, and the Sisters are about 5 miles away in a large apartment complex.  The little house is about the same size as the Sisters' apartment.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Record Keeping

I spent most of today trying to catch up on my financial record keeping.  We didn't have any assignments, so I had a free day.  I think that I am mostly caught up with recording all of our transactions.  I'm still not sure what is tax deductible or not, but I want to be prepared in any case.

In the afternoon, we drove to Costco to return some items and purchase some new items.  We also got gas.  The Costco gas prices are about 5 cents a gallon less than the other gas stations.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Open House in Arcadia

We were asked to support a community open house in Arcadia.  They don't have any missionaries and wanted to have some missionaries at their booth at the open house.  I asked President Cusick if the Spanish-speaking missionaries in Lake Placid, Elders Mortensen and Alarcon, could participate.  With his approval, a branch member from Lake Placid Branch drove them to Arcadia this morning.  We also traveled there to help at the booth.

The sister who asked us to help was pleased that we were there.  She has been quite involved in community activities as a way to help the Church become more visible.  This was the first time that the Church was invited to participate in a community event.  So she was happy that we were there to help.

We were able to distribute a number of Books of Mormon and pamphlets.  There were a few people who seemed interested, but the challenge is that we don't have any missionaries in Arcadia to follow-up with them.

It was a very hot day.  Fortunately, the branch members had set up a canopy to provide some shade for us.

The event ended a bit early, so we drove the Elders back to their apartment in Lake Placid.  I noticed when we left their apartment to return to ours that the GPS device said that we had 70 miles to drive home.  Just another long mileage day.

Elders Wilson, Alarcon, and Mortensen.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Another Apartment Inspection

We still had one apartment to inspect.  When we are at the mission office, we pick up apartment keys for a group of apartments.  There is a "backup" key for each apartment in the office.  Obviously, we try to look at a group of apartments that are located near each other.  Near is a relative term because it takes us much longer to drive between apartments that to actually inspect the apartments.

The apartment that we inspected today is located in Gulfport which is in the St. Petersburg area.  I would describe Gulfport as economically challenged, and the local unit is a branch.  The missionaries' apartment is half of a duplex and the building is probably the nicest in the area.  Fortunately, the Elders living there are maintaining it well.

The Gulfport Branch  has a very nice, purpose built facility.  From what I have seen of Gulfport, it is the nicest building in the city.

Whenever we drive to or through St. Petersburg, we drive over the Skyway Bridge.  The toll for the bridge is $1.25.  However, we purchased an electronic sticker for our car that is automatically scanned when we drive through the toll booth and is charged to our credit card.  We save $.10 from the normal toll, and we don't have to stop to pay the toll.  According to the GPS device in our car, the elevation at the top of the bridge is 214 feet above sea level.  The clearance under the bridge for ships is 190 feet.  The cruise ships that come to Tampa apparently need all of this clearance.  The total span of the bridge across the mouth of Tampa Bay is a little over 4 miles.

The Skyway Bridge between Bradenton and St. Petersburg.

The central part of the bridge and the supporting cables.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Finishing Projects

Renee worked on uploading the pictures and information from our apartment inspections yesterday.  For each apartment, she writes a narrative of our assessment of the apartment and uploads pictures to a special Facebook site.  President Cusick looks at the pictures to get an idea of whether the missionaries are keeping their apartments clean.  President and Sister Healey look at the pictures to see if there are needed repairs before signing another year lease.

My big accomplishment was taking our car in to have new front brake pads installed.  I took it to a nearby auto repair shop, but it still took a couple of hours.  Fortunately, they have free wifi, so I was able to complete some online work.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

District Meeting and Apartment Inspections

We attending a district meeting in the St. Petersburg Zone this morning.  Since we were in the neighborhood, following the meeting we inspected 5 apartments.  Because none of the apartments are close, it took as 6 hours to inspect 5 apartments.  All together, we left at 8:30 this morning, and returned at 8:30 this evening.

Three of the apartments were in great shape, one was OK, and one was bad.  The bad apartment is a small two bedroom apartment with four Elders.  Two additional Elders have been moved into that area, so they are residing with the two Elders who were there previously.  The two new Elders are supposed to look for another apartment for themselves, but so far they haven't found one.  Even with only two Elders, this apartment would be small, old, and poorly maintained.  With four, it is all of that along with cluttered.  One of our challenges is to figure out how much of the problem is the lack of care by the missionaries and how much is just a bad physical facility.

Monday, June 15, 2015


For our preparation day, I suggested that we travel south to Casperson Beach which is reputed to having good shelling and some prehistoric shark teeth.  The beach is about 45 minutes drive for us.  The beach isn't as nice as some closer ones here in Sarasota.  But there were lots of shells though mostly smaller ones.

Although we didn't have any equipment (screens) for finding sharks teeth, I spoke with some people who had found several.  The process is to scoop up some sand and shells in a screen or strainer.  The sand falls through the strainer leaving only the shells and perhaps some sharks teeth.  The teeth I saw are black and about 1/4" in size.  Not something one would display on a shelf.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Sunday Visit

Today we visited the Sarasota YSA Branch.  Since we were last there, a new Branch President has been called.  The previous Branch President is moving to Germany for a work assignment.  Pres. Jackson, the new president, was previously the Ward Mission Leader in the Palmetto Ward.

There were far more members in attendance than when we previously attended the branch.  I think this is a result of a number of members from various wards having graduated from high school and are encouraged to attend the YSA branch.  Included in these are several young men who have already received their mission calls and a couple more who are submitting their applications.  I suspect that by the end of the summer, the branch will once again be facing the challenge of limited priesthood leadership.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Somewhat Productive Day

We were able to complete some tasks that needed doing today, but it wasn't a very exciting day.  I took my car to have the oil changing; it was way overdue.  I am now using high mileage, synthetic oil because I am likely go longer between oil changes than I should.

We also watched a recorded webinar on a new Church program, Just Serve.  President Cusick has asked that we coordinate this for the missionaries.  The concept is that the various stakes will maintain an online directory of service opportunities in their community.  Stake members can look at the listings and determine which service opportunity would be best for them and their family.  Similarly, missionaries with some "slow" time will be able to find service opportunities within the community.  The concept has been piloted in several stakes in North America and is now slowly being rolled out to all of the stakes.

Friday, June 12, 2015

More Catching Up

Without any assignments for today, we continued our efforts to catch up on our temporal affairs.  I was going to have the oil changed in our car, but the closest place was too busy.  So I spent the day continuing to update our financial records.  I am trying to keep good records for tax purposes.  I haven't completed my tax research, but at least some of our expenses will be deductible for tax purposes.  Renee sent pictures to departed missionaries, pictures to Sister Cusick for the mission blog, and organized where apartments fit in the various five zones of the mission and linked them to a mission map.  She said there had been too much hugging and hand shaking and she felt like she was getting a cold so she also spent some time taking a nap.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Easy Day

We didn't have any assignments today, so we used the day to catch up on some temporal needs.  My big accomplishment was getting my hair cut.  I recorded some financial transactions and updated our financial records.  Renee updated this blog with some pictures she has taken.  And so forth....

We also posted the pictures and information from our apartment inspections on Tuesday.  Whenever we do an inspection, we take a number of pictures of the apartment -- a picture is worth a thousand words.  We upload these pictures along with some descriptive information onto a Facebook page.  Then the Healey's, who manage the apartments, and President and Sister Cusick can see what we found.  In some cases, President Healey tells the missionaries they need to improve.  And sometimes President Cusick comments to them about needed efforts in maintaining their apartment.

Transfer Day

The newly arrived missionaries had a morning of training and administrative tasks, such as completing their driving certifications and initiating their iPads.  (They don't get to actually use the iPads for several weeks until they have completed their training.)  During one of the training sessions the newly arriving missionaries were asked to share one concern they had.  They are as follows:  talking to strangers, getting along with companion, gospel knowledge, English (from an Elder from Mexico), 24/7 gospel, slacker companion/trainer, narrowing my focus, teaching with the spirit, looking professional, explaining gospel principles simply so they understand it.  Renee sat in on the health intake interviews with Elder Young, our resident mission nurse.  She had been asked by President Cusick to do this last transfer and this one as a possible replacement for Elder Young when his assignment is up in August.  Following lunch, President Cusick met with the new missionaries and those who have been assigned to be trainers.

At the transfer meeting, he asked a few missionaries to share a brief testimony.  These young missionaries have strong testimonies of our Savior.  He then announced the new companionships.  Some are excited to be with their new companion and others have not met their companion previously.  I passed out the letters that the new missionaries had written to their trainers as each training companionship was announced.  I will ask the trainers if these letters had any impact on how they trained their new missionary.

It was raining at the end of the meeting, so there wasn't as much socializing in the parking lot following the meeting.  There was still the usual bedlam of moving suitcases and bicycles around to different cars as they return to their areas.

We were told an interesting story about one sister's transfer.  She had a feeling that she was going to be transferred and who her new companion would be.  However, when the email was send out announcing who would be transferred, her name was not included.  She was surprised that she wasn't being transferred because of the feelings that she had had.  On Tuesday, President Cusick felt that he needed to make a change, and she was called and told that she would be transferred today.  This was not a surprise for her.  And when the new companionships were announced, she was assigned to the "right" sister.  We know both of these sisters, and it will be a good companionship.  (Renee speaking - President Cusick's comment during transfers was:  "When I get it wrong, I get corrected.  It may not be what you wanted, but it is what God wanted."  I love the way these things work out!)

Because of the rain, the traffic on the southbound interstate was reported to be very slow, so we waited at the mission office.  We picked up some keys for apartment inspections and visited with the Healeys who are both suffering from back pain.

We finally left around 5:30 hoping the traffic would have cleared a bit.  If it did, it wasn't very noticeable.  It rained until we got halfway back to Sarasota.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

A Busy Day

We started the day by driving to the Clearwater/Palm Harbor Chapel for a district meeting.  This building is about an hour drive from the hotel where we stay in Tampa.  In the district meeting, they talked about tracting and street contacting.  Since our missionaries are just beginning to tract, after being told for a year not to tract, they probably aren't very good at it.  So they did some role playing of door approaches.  One of the approaches that works well here is Florida is to offer to say a prayer in the home.

We then did two apartment inspections.  The first apartment was quite clean, the second not so much.  I suppose that I shouldn't gender stereotype, but the Sisters' apartments are generally cleaner than the Elders.

Then we drove back to the Mission Home for the dinner for the arriving missionaries.  We received 10 missions, 8 Elders and 2 Sister.  As always they were very tired after a long day of travel.  They arose at 2:30 am and departed the MTC for the airport at 3:30 am.

As usual, the new missionaries were asked to write a letter home.  This time, Pres. Cusick also asked them to write a letter to their trainer outlining their expectations for their trainer.  President hasn't asked them to do this before.  It may be a response to some of the comments from the departing missionaries than their trainers had not been as diligent as they had expected.

This seems like a good group of missionaries.  I hope they can develop into missionaries as strong as the ones who departed early today.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Departure Dinner

We helped prepare for and then attended the dinner with the departing missionaries.  Again, this was difficult because we have become close to several of the missionaries who have completed their missionary service and are returning home.

One of the departing missionaries, Elder Huber, lived near us for about a month.  He handed us a letter in which he thanked us for our service and kindness to the missionaries and to him.  It was very thoughtful.

After the dinner at the Mission Home, President Cusick asked them to share a brief message if they wished. All of them bore strong testimonies of the Savior and the work they have been engaged with for the past two years.  It was a very tender moment and many tears were shed.

At the "continuing" missionary training that we did a week ago, we asked the companions of the departing missionaries to write a letter to them.  Each was asked to write about something that they learned from their companion, why that was important, and to give their companion a commitment as he returned home.  I saved the letters and gave them to the departing missionaries following their testimonies.  I noticed some moist eyes as they read what their companions had written to them.

The departing Elders with Sister and President Cusick

Elders Hawkes and Nelson - love these two!

The favorite Elders

Elder Hawkes - great Assistant to the President

Sisters Healey, Cusick and Wilson, the Mission Presidency support team!

Elder Nelson - super special missionary!

Elders Lloyd, Nelson, Dance, and Hawkes

Elders Lloyd, Nelson, Dance, and Hawkes - the four sons of Mosiah!
Elder Huber, who wrote us the Thank You letter.

Elder Huber's Letter

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Stake Conference Again

We concluded stake conference today.  The general session was streamed to the Sebring Chapel for the members there along with those in Wauchula, Lake Placid, and Arcadia.  However, I saw several members from Arcadia in the congregation in the Sarasota Chapel.  The chapel is not very large, not nearly as large as typical stake centers.  It is an older building and was not built as a stake center.  I understand the Sarasota Stake was only created 6 years ago.

The building was full, and we had a good meeting.  Two recently returned missionaries spoke about the need to continue to do missionary work.  President and Sister Cusick spoke again.  Elder Thompson, among other topics, spoke about the need to share what we know with our friends.

After returning home, I was struggling to stay awake.  So finally I gave up and took a nap.  I think this is the first time that I have taken a nap since we have been here.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Stake Conference

We attended two sessions of the Sarasota Stake Conference and one additional meeting today.  We started with a stake missionary correlation meeting.  The zone leaders attend this meeting along with several stake high councilors.  Since the zone leaders are concerned about exceeding their mileage allocation this month, we drove to Bradenton to pick them up for the meeting in Sarasota.

The missionary meeting is basically a means for the stake to learn about the missionary efforts and vice versa.  The members of the stake have not been as diligent in providing referrals to the missionaries nor having investigators taught in their homes.  So we asked the high councilors to preach this message to the stake members in their visits to wards.  Brother McKinney, the high councilor over missionary work in the stake, has been very diligent.  He is moving to Kentucky soon and this will be our last meeting with him.  He is an impressive young man of 30 years with a tender story about his reactivation.  He will be missed! 

Next was the priesthood leadership meeting of stake conference.  It was announced as a priesthood meeting, at least in the wards we have attended for the past couple of weeks.  The visiting authority for the conference was Elder Stephen Thompson, an area authority seventy.  He lives in Ft. Myers, and formerly was the president of that stake.

In this meeting, and repeated again during the evening session, is that we should strive to increase the spirituality and improve the content of our sacrament meetings.  Ward councils should now be included in the planning for sacrament meeting, both for setting topics and selecting speakers.  Music should be familiar hymns.

President and Sister Cusick both spoke and talked about missionary work and the need for members to be more engaged.

Renee speaking:  Brother McKinney shared his testimony about how he was reactivated after a six year hiatus from the gospel and from a very low point in his life.  His move to Kentucky was somewhat motivated by his need to help his brother come back to church.  He bore a very strong witness of the Savior and has shared life changing experiences in a past sacrament meeting where he referenced speaking at his grandmother's funeral.  He said he didn't really know her and so was reading her journal before the funeral.  He found a section where she had written a note in the margin:  "Please read this immediately.  It is important."  She then shared a powerful experience and testified that everlasting peace would come to all who will accept and follow His teachings.  She commented that someone must pay for this terrible wrong (referring to an experience)--and that someone already has!  Personal redemption in life is not only for big things but little things as well.  It was a strong witness to me of the importance of keeping a journal, not only for ourselves but for our posterity as well!

Renee's comments:  Elder Franklin is another special missionary whom we have gotten to know and appreciate.  Today was his birthday.  I only found out because I was responding to a text from his mother thanking me for a picture we had sent.  She mentioned how much she missed him--especially on that day because it was his birthday.  When I asked if there was anything I could get for her to give to him she said that a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup would be special because, although he liked them, it was her favorite candy and he would get the message.  The picture is of me presenting him his birthday treat from his mother.  It was a tender moment for both of us. 

Elder Franklin

Friday, June 5, 2015

Mission Leadership Council

We drove to the Mission Office today to participate in the Mission Leadership Council with the Sister Training Leaders and the Zone Leaders.  President Cusick conducted this meeting more as a discussion council rather than presenting some formal training.  He asked what factors are preventing the missionaries from feeling successful.  After identifying several, he asked for suggestions for how to help missionaries feel successful.  From this discussion, they will develop the training agendas for the district meetings for the next month.

My part of the meeting was to briefly discuss the mission's hurricane emergency plan.  I passed out instruction sheets on what the missionaries are to do in case they need to evacuate to a safe haven.  The safe havens for the missionaries are all inland chapels.  Evacuation is only mandated in the case of a projected Category 2 hurricane.

Following the meeting, we watched over the internet Elder Perry's funeral and then returned to Sarasota.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Another Sick Day

Renee is still not feeling well, so again we didn't do much.  Basically, we just stayed in so she could rest.  We have a Mission Leadership Council meeting in Tampa tomorrow, so she wants to try to feel better for that.  Fortunately, we didn't have any assignments for today.

Sick Day

Renee isn't feeling well, so we didn't do much today.  Fortunately, we didn't have any assignments, so Renee could get some extra rest during the day.  I think that she may be coming down with a cold.

I was able to get a couple of errands done while she was resting.  I took my mangled glasses to an optical shop for repair.  They were afraid that bending the frame back into shape would break it.  I told them that I would just throw them away in any case.  So they tried bending it back and were successful.  So now I have my old jogging glasses back.

For our dinner, Renee wasn't too hungry, so we tried a new sandwich shop, Jersey Mike's.  Their "differentiation feature" is they slice everything to order.  We quite liked our sandwiches, so we will be going back again.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Continuing Missionary Training

President Cusick met with the missionaries who will be departing next week.  He asked us and the Healey's to conduct a training session for their companions, who I termed the continuing missionaries.  President Healey talked about working with the members.  We asked Elder Lloyd to do some training on social interaction - listening and how to end a conversation.  He had them role play as part of his training.  We had them prepare some short lessons (simplify and intensify) on various topics which they then taught to each other.  At the end of the training, we had them write a letter to their companion telling him what they had learned and extending a commitment for them as they are released.  I will give the letters to the departing missionaries next week.

One of the missionaries, Elder Garner, who is departing is going to Brazil.  His visa was approved.  He met with us for our training before being driven to the airport.  He is a good missionary, and we are sorry to see him leave.  However, he has a good attitude.  He said he has loved his time here (almost three months), but he was called to serve in Brazil.  He plays the piano, so we asked him to play our prelude and opening hymn.

Elder Garner playing for us before departing for Brazil

After all of the meetings were concluded for the day, we took Elders Hawkes and Nelson to dinner.  We have enjoyed working with them and are sad that they will be returning home.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Missionary Christmas Party

Last year, they held a missionary Christmas Party at the beach in December.  We were told that it was great except it was cold.  So this year President Cusick decided to hold the party in June.  The only risk was that it would rain in the afternoon as it often does.  Fortunately, that didn't happen.

The party was held at Fort DeSoto Park where we have had several meetings previously.  The facilities are quite nice with large covered pavilions and large, sandy beach.  The sand isn't quite as fine as Siesta Beach, but it is close.  And the missionaries didn't mind at all.  This is the only time they are allowed to go to the beach.  Even so, they can't get into the water.

But they had a great time, playing football, soccer, and frisbee on the beach, as well as other games.  There were also lots of greetings, hugs, and conversation with missionaries they had not seem for awhile.  They all have received "camp chairs" to use in their apartments and were asked to bring those.  Quite a few of them carried their chairs out to the beach and sat there and visited.

The food was quite simple.  Large numbers of pizza were ordered, we brought water, and the missionaries had assignments to bring salads and root beer and ice cream for floats.  We even convinced two Elders from Europe to try root beer floats.  They hate root beer but acknowledged that root beer floats were "awesome."

Elders Dance and Spach - great missionaries!

Elders Hawkes and Dance (cousins) and Sister Wilson - love these Elders!

Elders Mazivila (Mozambique) and Franklin - sweet and humble companionship!  Inspiring!

Elders Newbold and Nelson - lucky to have Elder Nelson as his trainer - great companionship!

Elder Milmont with us - the one who came up with "Sister Sunshine" from Metro training.

Elders Spach and Nelson - our awesome former zone leaders, a.k.a. the dream team!

Sadness for Elder Nelson's upcoming departure - I love how they love each other!

Elder Nelson and Sis. Wilson - This Elder is dear to my heart! - He will be greatly missed!!!!!

The pictures and captions above are Renee's.  I convinced her to go early so we would have some time to look around the park.  There are a couple of fishing piers with lots of people fishing.  I think the fishing activity attracted a number of birds, so I was able to get some close up "portraits" of some of them.

Brown Pelican

Laughing Gull

Snowy Egret