Friday, July 31, 2015

A Combination Day

We began the day by going to Siesta Key Beach.  Renee wanted to get some additional white sand for a sand and shell display she is making for our apartment.  The sand was wet.  This was actually a good thing because it wasn't blowing around like it did on our last trip to that beach.  Our expectation was that we would go for a couple of hours and then it would rain.  It seems to rain every afternoon.  We were mostly correct.  It started getting very dark and blustery around 12:30, so we (and many other people) packed up and left.  However, it only sprinkled a bit.

We returned home and got ready to attend a baptism in the Cortez Branch.  The Sister Missionaries there had invited us to participate.  This is their 4 baptism this month.  Some of those in attendance could speak English to us, but the service, including the talks, was in Spanish.  Nevertheless, it was good to participate.

We returned home and started looking for Renee's cell phone.  She couldn't find it.  I called and we didn't hear anything.  So we thought perhaps she had left it at the Chick-Fil-A when we ate lunch.  We drove there, but no one had turned it in and it wasn't in the booth were we ate.  We drove back to our apartment, and Renee started the search again.  This time she found it in our bathroom.  We don't have great cellular connections in our apartment and apparently no coverage in our bathroom!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Shoe Day

Renee has found that her flat shoes are uncomfortable.  She has been taking two pairs of shoes with her, fashionable ones to wear to meetings and comfortable ones to wear as we walk around.  This is a problem that a lot of Sister Missionaries have.  Sister Cusick has told them to purchase some shoes with arch supports, and I found pictures of some examples for her to use.

A couple of the Sister Missionaries told Renee about a store they found that carries comfortable and somewhat stylish shoes.  The store they went to is part of a local chain, and there is a shop in Ellenton near the outlet mall where we periodically go.  They measured her foot and noted that she has an extremely high arch, which she already knew.  So the flat shoes with no arch support are awful for her.  Renee quite liked their shoes, so we are the proud owners of several new pairs of shoes plus some inserts to try to make her awful shoes less awful.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Unexpected Assignment

We thought that we would be having an uneventful day.  I was busy working on some projects when President Cusick called.  He wanted me to meet with a missionary who is struggling a bit.  The missionary is in the Sarasota Zone, so he asked me to meet with him before he drove down.  I called and arranged to meet with him.  He is struggling with some depression and homesickness, which he hadn't expected.  He said that his mission has pushed him out of his comfort zone and is harder work than he had anticipated.  I reminded him of the saying, "There is no growth in the comfort zone, and no comfort in the growth zone."  I also told him about one of my father's favorite statements, "The Lord doesn't give us challenges to make us bitter, rather to make us better." I don't know if my meeting with him helped.  I think he understands the challenges he is facing.

After meeting with him, I happened upon President Clover of the Sarasota Stake.  We had a nice visit, and he shared some of the challenges he faces in the stake.  Nothing that more leadership wouldn't resolve :-)  I also discovered that we are the same age.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

District Meeting

We drove to Venice chapel for a district meeting this morning.  I don't mind driving to Venice.  It takes us less time to get there than to any of the other church buildings in our mission.  The district received three new missionaries last week; this was their first district meeting.

The topic for discussion in all of the district meetings today was how to involve the youth in the wards in missionary work.  Part of the challenge in this is that in several wards, there are not many youth.  In the Venice Ward, there is only one Priest and no Laurels.  But there is no question that the youth who are able to share the gospel with their friends can have a great impact.

On the way back from Venice, we stopped at Costco to restock our food supplies.  Then we drove to a shoe store for Renee to try to find some more comfortable shoes with some arch support.  Unfortunately, the stylish women's shoes are not designed to be comfortable for walking.  We have been encouraging the Sister Missionaries to save their stylish, flat shoes for special occasions and replace them with comfortable walking shoes with proper support.  Those who have made the change have reported they feel much better.

Monday, July 27, 2015


We didn't accomplish much on our preparation day.  We did our normal chores, laundry, vacuuming, and dusting.  We went to the Post Office to mail several items.  And then we went to the mall for some shopping.  At least Renee went shopping.  I sat and read.  Not a very exciting day.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Visit to Arcadia Branch

We drove an hour to participate in the Arcadia Branch meetings today.  Arcadia is located almost directly east of us in the central part of the state.  This is one of the two branches in the Sarasota Stake without missionaries.  Both of these branches (Wauchula is the other) had been using the missionaries for regular branch assignments; home teaching, teaching classes, etc.  They are both struggling branches, so the missionaries were a strength to them.  However, that is not the role of the missionaries for the Tampa Mission.  The units are expected to be functional and the missionaries are supposed to teach, and find if needed.

After letting the Branch President know we were coming, he asked that we speak in Sacrament Meeting.  As instructed by President Cusick, we spoke on missionary work.  I emphasized that members are responsible for missionary work.  Not having full-time missionaries assigned to their branch does not mean they no longer have that responsibility.  I also suggested that if they want to have missionaries re-assigned to the branch, they need to improve their home and visiting teaching (demonstrating they can fellowship new members) and overwhelm their branch mission leader with referrals of friends and neighbors who want to be taught.

Saturday, July 25, 2015


This afternoon we drove to Port Chalotte for a baptism.  The Sister Missionaries in Port Charlotte found her through tracting.  So although tracting may not be efficient, the missionaries are able to find investigators by doing that.

The weather has been quite dreary.  It has been raining almost nonstop for the past several days.  It seems like the standard pattern is scattered thunderstorms with brief intense rain followed by clearing followed by more brief intense rain.  So the current weather pattern seems unusual to us.  But at least we are in a car.  We feel sorrow for the missionaries who have to walk or bicycle in this weather.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Baseball Game

Today's big event was participating in Mormon Night at the Tampa Bay Rays game.  I guess some local members decided to organize a group event as a Pioneer Day celebration.  There was a section in the right field stands where the missionaries and members sat.  Not all of the missionaries were allowed to go -- only those within a reasonable driving range.  A group of missionaries were invited to sing the national anthem before the game.  They sound quite good.  One of the missionaries who sang was from Spain.  He thought it was funny that a Spaniard was singing the U.S. national anthem.

Missionaries (between home plate and pitcher's mound) singing the national anthem

Missionaries at the game.  Elders Lake and Smith in the foreground.

Renee and Sister Tollerton

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Another Special Considerations Interview

We started the day by dropping off a signed Baptism and Confirmation Record form from the interview I had last evening.  We then drove to Clearwater for another interview.  Since we arrived in Clearwater early, we drove to Clearwater Beach first.

We had driven to Clearwater Beach once before and found it to be very crowded.  We thought maybe on a weekday in the middle of the hot summer when it isn't tourist season, it would be less crowded.  We were wrong.  Again it was packed with people.  Personally, I think the Sarasota beaches are better.  And they have far more parking -- and it's free.  So I don't think we will be going to Clearwater Beach much.

Renee's comments:  I agree about Clearwater Beach.  The sand is very similar to Siesta Key Beach, very, very white and fine.  The area is much more congested and the beach is smaller so it feels more crowded.

We stay overnight in Tampa Monday and Tuesday nights during transfer week so this was the first morning back at our apartment since we left on Monday.  As I walked out of our apartment to go to the fitness center, I unexpectedly felt sad and somewhat empty because Elder Barnett wasn't in our complex anymore.  He is now home with his family in Farmington, UT, after serving a great mission.  He was the one that had been called "the healer" by other missionaries.  We hope he will be able to get resolution to some health issues he was having near the end of his mission.  He has been somewhat of an anchor for us as he has lived here ever since we arrived and it has always been so pleasant to see him and his companions.  He always wanted to know what he could do for us and had such an engaging smile.  We miss him!

Clearwater Beach

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Transfer Meeting

The new missionaries began the day with usual medical orientation by Elder Young (his last time) and administrative tasks, insurance, driving, iPads, and most importantly debit cards.  Following lunch, President Cusick conducts some training, and then the transfer meeting is held.  This was a large transfer with almost half of the missionaries being transferred.  The challenge for the president has been to find 13 trainers for the new missionaries.

Renee has been sitting in on the medical intake interviews with Elder (nurse) Young as President Cusick thought she might need to take his place when his service ends next month.  However, we are getting a senior couple the end of September and Sister Alexander is a nurse and will take over any medical assistance that might be needed.

I always enjoy seeing the swarm of activity in the parking lot following the meeting.  Missionaries are moving luggage and bicycles and giving each other hugs.

The madhouse following the transfer meeting.  Elders Mazivila and Stanley in the foreground.
Following the meeting, Sister Tawzer and Renee followed me in Sis. Tawzer's mission car to her new apartment in Bradenton.  She will be serving in a Spanish-speaking branch, although she doesn't speak Spanish.  I then had an interview.  Following that, we delivered some luggage to a missionary who was transferred.  All-in-all, another long day.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Arriving Missionaries

If some missionaries depart, then later that day new missionaries arrive.  First we traveled to St. Petersburg to attend a district meeting.  Before the meeting started, one of the Sisters noticed a cockroach crawling on the ceiling.  And then all of the Sisters freaked out (except Renee).  I told them that if they were bothered by cockroaches, they shouldn't live in Hawaii.  One of the Elders captured it in a cup and took it outside.

The district meeting lesson was on prayer, personal prayer and praying in the homes of people as they are tracting.  They had a very good discussion.  I think they are learning to counsel together.

We had 17 new missionaries arrive -- 13 Elders and 4 Sister -- for a net gain of four.  They seem like a good group, but it is difficult to tell at this point.  They are all exhausted after getting up a 2 am and traveling all day.

The following are some pictures from the district meeting we attended.

They wanted a picture of the district before they were transferred

The Sisters, half of whom were transferred

Monday, July 20, 2015

Departing Missionary Dinner

Today started the transfer process with the departing missionaries gathering at the Mission Office to meet with President Cusick and then meeting at the Mission Home for a "farewell" dinner.  We didn't have to drive any missionaries, but we did take Elder Barnett's luggage.  Elders Spach and Franklin are also departing.  That is again a strong group of Elders.  We get to know the missionaries in the Sarasota Zone (Stake) because we see them more often than the other missionaries.  We develop a good relationship with them, so it is sad when they return home.  But we know their families are excited to have them return.

Our mission nurse, Elder Young, is also going to be released in a couple of weeks.  He is a local resident who is a service missionary providing health care to the missionaries.  He has been a real help.

Renee's comments:  Pictured below are Elders Spach and Milmont.  Before the evening ends, President Cusick has those who want to give him suggestions for mission improvement and then bear their testimonies.  Elder Spach mentioned in his testimony that he and Elder Milmont came out together and then served 2 years without seeing much of each other as they served in opposite ends of the mission.  He said that even though they were both part of the Florida Tampa Mission their experiences were very different and that Heavenly Father has an individual plan for each missionary.  I guess you don't have to go to an entirely different mission to have varied experiences!  Love these Elders!  Another group that is difficult to see leave.  We especially got close to Elders Spach, Franklin and Barnett, again, due to many opportunities for interaction.  They are an exceptionally fine group of missionaries!  BTW, you will notice that there was only one departing Sister--Sister Rudd.  We didn't see much of her because she did not serve in one of the zones we work with; however, she left a positive impression with us.

The departing missionaries with Pres. and Sis. Cusick

The departing Elders

Elders Spach and Milmont

Elders Spach, Franklin, and Barnett
Elders Lloyd, Spach, and Dance

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Long Day in Sebring (Lake Placid Branch)

We left our apartment at 8:30 am to drive to Sebring to attend the Lake Placid Branch meetings.  I had an interview with an investigator before the meetings.  After the interview, we then attended the branch council and the regular block of meetings.

During the meetings, they mentioned that they had a branch party the day before to celebrate the one year anniversary of the creation of the branch.  It was split away from the Sebring Ward.  The branch president, President Swift, had been a counselor in the Sebring bishopric.

This branch seems stronger than the other branches in the stake, though they still don't have many priesthood holders or youth.

After the meetings, we drove back to our apartment arriving about 6 pm.  So it was a long day, but it was good to be meeting with the Saints.

Saturday, July 18, 2015


Both of us got haircuts today.  Mine took 20 minutes and cost $16 with tip.  Renee's took longer and cost more.

After our haircuts, we drove around Palmetto and Bradenton looking for a potential apartment for two Elders.  President Cusick has decided to put two additional Elders in the Palmetto Ward.  That means a new apartment has to be found.  The challenge is that there are not many reasonably priced apartment complexes in Palmetto.  There are some apartments in Bradenton, but the Elders would need to cross the Manatee River each day to get to their proselyting area.

The river is more like a bay going out to the Gulf and is perhaps 3/4 of a mile wide.  There are two four lane bridges that cross the bay between Bradenton and Palmetto.  However, they are very busy and don't have bike lanes.  So hopefully when the Elders are moved there, they will have a car.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Leisurely Travel Day

We drove the big van back to the Mission Office today and swapped it for our car.  I much prefer driving our car, or any car, rather than the van.  The last several days have been windy and stormy.  As a higher profile vehicle, the wind gusts push the van around more than my lower profile car.  We were happy to return the van.

On our return trip, since we were not in a hurry, we stopped at an outlet mall that is just off the interstate.  I was looking for another pair of jogging shoes.  I have been able to jog enough that I am wearing out my shoes.  I suppose that is a good thing.

While at the outlet mall, I stopped at a store to say hello to a young man from the Sarasota YSA Branch who I have become acquainted with.  He had good news; his mission call to Albuquerque NM - Spanish speaking.  He grew up in a Spanish-speaking family, so the language will not be a problem for him.  He will be a good missionary, as will several other young men from the Sarasota Stake who have received calls this summer.  Hopefully they will return and strengthen the ward here some day.

Renee's comments:  After returning from our temple excursion yesterday, we received an email in the evening from Elder Barnett, one of our departing missionaries who lives in our apartment complex (see picture on previous post).  We loved this Elder before and are even more attached to him now!  It is things like this that make it all worthwhile!

"Thank you. I really mean it when I say that you have helped me and saved me. I will always cherish our friendship. From blessings to text messages to buying us food you have always been looking out for me and
I am ever grateful for it. You two are truly very sweet and kind and a great example of Christlike love, service and faithfulness. I wish I could express more in writing, but just know I really do appreciate you and admire you. I think of you as my mission parents.

Elder Barnett"

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Temple Trip

We arose at 4 am to prepare to leave for the temple.  At 5:20, 6 Elders knocked on our apartment door and we left in the big van and a driving rainstorm.  I was literally soaked walking the 40 feet from our apartment building to the van.  Enroute to the temple, we picked up 4 additional Elders.  We arrived at the Orlando Temple at about 7:45.  We met the Healeys, and Sis. Cusick who had brought 4 Elders with them. 

What made this temple trip different is that Elder Mazivila, who is from Mozambiqure, was able to do the temple work for his deceased father.  Elder Mazivila is the only member in his family, and his father died 23 years ago.  He was baptized and confirmed for his father by his companion, Elder Franklin.  All of the other Elders along with the Temple President were able to watch.  Following the baptism, Elder Mazivila gave Elder Franklin a very long embrace while they were still standing in the font.  It was a very tender moment and there were not many dry eyes among the observers.  It was a special occasion, and the Temple President had me write down for him all of the details for the two missionaries.  He was really touched by the baptism and confirmation.  Elder Mazivila was also able to perform the initiatory and endowment ordinances  for his father.  Following the endowment session, President Tilton met with the missionaries and referred to the ordinances performed by the two Elders.  He made some comments and answered questions.

Another interesting experience happened to me following the time in the temple.  I made a quick dash to the LDS Distribution Center located adjacent to the temple.  I was looking for a small cylinder to hold consecrated oil.  I have oil in the apartment, but I thought I should probably carry some with me.  I was visiting with a young returned missionary and his parents who were also in the store.  Unfortunately the store does not carry the small containers.  So the returned missionary ran out to his car and gave me his.  He insisted that I take it and said that he had several.  I thanked him, and he said he needed to thank me for our service.

The Elders, Healeys, Sis. Cusick and us at the Orlando Temple.

Elder Milmont who started calling Renee "Sister Sunshine"

Elders Barnett (Farmington, UT) and Nordin (Houston, TX) who live in our complex.

Elder Franklin, a great trainer of missionaries (see next picture)
Elder Murat (Haiti), Elder Franklin (Highland, UT), and Elder Mazivila (Mozambique)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Apartment Inspections

We drove to Tampa to do three apartment inspections today.  Two of the apartments were fine; the other not so much.

After completing the inspections, we drove to the Mission Office.  We left our car there and picked up a large van.  We will be using the van to drive a group of Elders to the temple tomorrow.

The following are pictures that we took in the three apartments.  As you can see, the apartments are sparsely furnished -- by design.  When we do an inspection, we take pictures of the apartment and post those pictures onto a special Facebook page for President Cusick to see.  Renee prepares a written inspection report for the file in the office.  She also leaves a note for the missionaries either complementing them or suggesting areas for improvement.  Just to make it a little more interesting, we started leaving a pack of Life Savers and added a note thanking them for saving lives.  After we ran out of Life Savers, we started leaving packages of Goldfish with a note to remind them to keep their line in the water (from Preach My Gospel, p. 152)) and catch some fish.  The missionaries that have been home while we did the inspection, seemed to like the "treat".

An Elders' apartment with a bicycle under repair.

A neat and tidy Sisters' apartment.

Some Elders do manage to keep their apartments clean and orderly.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

District Meeting in Sebring

We asked the Zone Leaders which district meeting in the Sarasota Zone they would like us to attend.  They suggested the district that meets in Sebring.  That is the smallest district and of course the furthest away.  Neither the ZLs or the Sister Training Leaders were going to be attending there.

So we drove the 90 minutes to Sebring for the meeting.  It is easier to get to a 10 am district meeting than it is to arrive for a 7 am Ward Council meeting.

The district leader, Elder Mortensen, will complete his mission and return home next week, so this was his final meeting to conduct.  The assigned topics were on extending commitments and following through with investigators.  At the end, he gave his "last presentation" and focused on teaching with the Spirit.  Even though that wasn't one of the topics for the meeting, it was important for him to share that message with the other missionaries.

I have decided to include some pictures of the church building where we meet.  The Sebring building is quite nice.  It is used by the Sebring Ward, Lake Place Branch, and the Sebring district for weekly meetings.

Sebring Chapel

Monday, July 13, 2015

Ringling Museum

We decided to visit the John and Mable Ringling Museum today.  We thought it would be mostly inside.  The museum has several separate buildings, so we had to walk in the heat and humidity between the buildings.  There are three sections to the museum, the Circus Museum, the Ringling's home, and the Art Museum based on their personal collection.

We visited the Circus Museum and the home.  The Circus Museum had various articles from the Ringling Bros. Circus, including a massive scale model of the circus "village" that moved from city to city.  We found it much more interesting than I think either of us expected.

Their home was built in 1927 and was named Ca' d'Za.  This is "House of John" in a Venetian dialect.  Needless to say, it was designed to look similar to the Doge's Palace in Venice, which we have seem.  It is a good copy though even with 56 rooms it isn't nearly as large as the original.  Apparently Mable Ringling loved everything Italian, though she grew up on a farm in Ohio.

We decided to wait on going to the Art Museum.  Admittance to just the Art Museum is free on Mondays, so we will return on another P-Day.

The following are pictures of Renee at the Ringling House.

Renee on the veranda at the back of the house.

The veranda looks out on Sarasota Bay with Longboat Key in the far background.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Wauchula Branch

We visited the Wauchula Branch today.  This is a small struggling branch located in the central part of the state about an hour drive away.  As is true with most small branches, there is a shortage of priesthood leadership.  The Branch President lives in Sebring, about 45 minutes away.  He only has one counselor.  The EQ President was in attendance, but I was told that he had not attended for the last several weeks.  He and his family will be moving north for 3 months to work on a pumpkin farm.

They had two missionaries assigned to the branch until a few weeks ago.  The missionaries had callings in the branch, and the branch members leaned heavily on them.  Now that they are gone, the members apparently are not stepping up to take up the slack.

There are a couple of strong couples in the branch.  They seem to be trying but it is hard for a few people to do everything in the branch.  (Renee's comments:  When we attended today, we were both asked to take a part in the Branch Council meeting.  I was asked to share a spiritual thought and Brent was asked to share something from Preach My Gospel.  We offered the prayers in sacrament meeting and I led the music.  In Relief Society, I also played the piano for the opening and closing hymns.  As you can see, they need help.)

The interesting part is they have a very nice church building.  It was built 30 years ago when the average Sacrament Meeting attendance was around 100.  Now the average is only 25 to 30.

At one time, the branch was converted to Spanish-speaking, and the English-speaking members drove to meetings in Arcadia, another small branch about 45 minutes away.  However, the activity in the Spanish-speaking branch dwindled, so they changed back to an English-speaking branch a year or so ago.  The reasoning was that most of the Spanish-speaking members could also speak English.  While the missionaries were there, they provided Spanish translation of the Sacrament Meeting.

It is just a challenging situation.  I'm glad that President Clover, the Sarasota Stake President, has to deal with it instead of me!

The underutilized Wauchula Chapel.

The older, central part of Wauchula town.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Running Errands

With the financial homework completed, we were able to run a few errands.  We returned a few purchases and bought some other items.  We made our weekly run to Costco to purchase some food.  Normally we try to do that on our P-Day.  However, we will be driving to Wauchula to attend meetings tomorrow, and we needed some gas.  The Costco gas is about 5 cents a gallon below the other gas stations.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Finished Finances

We continued to work at home today, and I was able to finish updating my financial records and recording last months financial transactions.  Not a very exciting day but at least the financial stuff is not mostly done.

Because we were working in our apartment, we were able to take a break to watch Elder Packer's funeral.  Fortunately, I was able to get our electronics to work, so we could watch the broadcast on BYUTV on our television even though we don't have it on our cable subscription.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Financial Day

We didn't have any assignments today, so we stayed in our apartment.  It was nice not having to drive anywhere.

My self assignment was to work on various financial issues.  I completed required annual tax forms for the retirement accounts that I maintained for my consulting work back in the day.  Next I worked on establishing the required minimum withdrawals from IRAs that I set up over the years.  Once one turns 70, the IRS mandates that funds placed in tax sheltered retirement accounts begin to be withdrawn so that taxes will be paid on them.  I don't think that we will need the money, especially while serving on our mission.  Nevertheless, I have to start taking withdrawals.

Renee posted pictures from our apartment inspections and searched for media items that could be sent out to members, interested nonmembers, and missionaries.

Spending the day in the apartment reminded me that we haven't posted any pictures of it.  So I took a few pictures of our "home."

View from the entrance to our apartment

Our dining table and living room

Our bedroom and Renee's desk

The second bedroom and my desk

Our kitchen
View from our Lanai

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Apartment Inspections

We drove to Tampa and even further north to do apartment inspections today.  Fortunately all of the apartments were in good shape.  The missionaries have been maintaining them well.  The biggest problem that we found was an air filter that needed to be replaced.

We looked at a senior couple apartment in Tampa.  Unfortunately the senior couple who had been living there had to return home because of medical issues.  So the apartment is empty.  President Cusick asked us if we would like to move to reduce our travel time to the mission office and mission home.  The apartment is nice, but Renee prefers our apartment.  It would have reduced our travel time to Tampa, but the travel time to the Sarasota church units would have been increased.

We stopped at the mission office to pick up some materials for missionaries.  We made deliveries to Sarasota Elders and Bradenton Sisters.  The result of this was a long day with lots of driving.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

District Meeting

Today we attended a district conference in Bradenton.  Elder Franklin conducted the meeting and was responsible for the training.  The training was on the responsibilities of the Ward Council for member missionary work.  This was a review of the zone training meeting from last week.  Since I conducted the training in the Sarasota Zone last week, I participated a bit more than usual in the district meeting today.  I don't think that Elder Franklin minded.  In fact he often called on me to offer my thoughts and suggestions.

Elder Franklin and Elder Barnett are both in that district and will be returning home in two weeks.  Elder Barnett has been referred to as "the healer" by other missionaries.  Again, we will be sad to see them leave.  They are strong, hard working missionaries.  Both of them have served as trainers several times.  We have included pictures of all nine missionaries in this district below.

From my perspective, being asked to serve as a trainer for newly arriving missionaries is the most important missionary calling.  I suspect that some missionaries aspire to be district leaders, zone leaders, or assistants to the president.  But in terms of having the greatest impact on missionary work, trainers do that.  If they train well, then those new missionaries will be good missionaries for the remainder of their mission.

Elder Barnett and Elder Franklin, departing soon

Elders Mazivila (from Mozambique), Barnett, Nordin and Franklin - Great group of missionaries!

Sisters Jahnel (from Paraguay), Bryan, and Gibson - some of our Spanish speaking sisters

Sisters Phillips and Baugh, also Spanish speaking missionaries

Sister Wilson, President Wilson and Elder Barnett, who lives in our apartment complex

Sister Wilson, President Wilson and Elder Franklin
Renee's comments:  Today marks 6 months since we arrived at the Mission Office in Tampa.  Hardly seems possible that we have been here for a third of our mission.  I hope we have accomplished some good!  In any event, we sure love and respect these missionaries who give their all to bringing others unto Christ.

Monday, July 6, 2015

P-Day at Lido Beach

Although Renee doesn't really enjoy going to the beach, (Renee speaking here - I LOVE the beach, just don't like what the sun does to my "aging" skin), I convinced her that a couple of hours in the sun wouldn't hurt.  It took us 22 minutes to drive from our apartment to Lido Beach.  We arrived at 10:15 am to try to avoid the worst sun rays and left just before noon.  Nevertheless, we both have a few pink spots.

My new thing at the beach is to look for shells.  I enjoy walking along the beach anyway, so now I have an excuse.  All of the beaches that we have visited have an abundance of shells, mostly small but a few larger ones.  I look for larger shells or smaller ones with interesting color.  Renee found our best shell so far.  I don't know what we will do with our shells, but we are building a good sized collection.

Renee's shell

Following our all to brief time at the beach, we returned and did our normal weekly preparation -- laundry, vacuuming, and so forth.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Visit to Venice Ward

We continued our rotation through the units in the Sarasota Stake and visited the Venice Ward.  Because most of the travel to the ward building is on I-75, we can get there faster than anywhere else in the stake.  This ward has many retired people but not many youth or primary children.

In the Ward Council, I was asked if I would like to say anything.  Of course I had something to say!  I rehearsed to them the essence of the training from Tuesday which had to do with the responsibilities of the Ward Council for member missionary work (prepare people to be taught, invite the missionaries to teach in their homes, fellowship investigators, and prepare themselves and their children to serve as missionaries).  I said that the missionaries or preferably the Ward Mission Leader would be reminding them of these responsibilities each week.  On our next visit in a couple of months, they might not invite me to speak :-)

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Fourth of July

We celebrated the 4th of July by going to the Sarasota Jungle Gardens.  It is sort of a zoo that features 10 acres of tropical vegetation and over 200 animals, and they had a special 2 for 1 entrance fee.  It was a place we had talked about visiting, and the reduced fee made it more attractive.

The zoo has mostly birds, some monkeys, small mammals, snakes and other reptiles including alligators and a crocodile.  There is also a small petting zoo with goats, chickens and a miniature cow.  It is perhaps best know for the flock of free-roaming flamingos.  They wander around in a small pond.  One can purchase "flamingo food" and feed them.  But I just took pictures of them.  Renee added some pictures, some she took of the animal shows we attended.

Someone feeding a flamingo

Renee by a giraffe sculpture

Wildlife Wonder show with Francis the great horned owl

Butterscotch, the python, at the Reptile Encounter show

Mocha, the skunk, rescued from the wild

Then we drove to the Mission Home and had a casual dinner with President and Sister Cusick, President and Sister Healey, and four sister missionaries.  We had a barbeque cookout for our Fourth of July celebration and enjoyed the interaction with everyone. 

Driving back to Sarasota in the evening, we saw lots of fireworks, some fairly close to the interstate as well drove by.

Renee's comments:  Sister Cusick made a great peach pie for dessert.  The mission presidency has become our surrogate family for celebrations and many other events.  I did have an "ah ha" moment when Sister Huber, one of our sister missionaries, offered a blessing on the food.  I have been wondering just what my purpose was here, as it is quite different from what one would anticipate as a senior missionary.  In her prayer she said something to the effect that we be able to help the missionaries fulfill their missionary purpose.  I had a spiritual confirmation that that was what my role was and I will do it willingly!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Mission Leadership Council and Senior Missionaries

We first drove to Bradenton to participate in the Mission Leadership Council.  Originally, President Cusick was going to hold the meeting at a pavilion at one of the beaches on Anna Maria Island which is near Bradenton.  However, he thought that since tomorrow is the 4th of July, the beaches might be busy. So it was held in the Bradenton church building.

We discussed topics for district training meetings for the coming month.  President Cusick is concerned that the training topics are not always followed in the district meetings.  He said the first couple of weeks are OK, but then the training sometimes strays off topic.  So they will try to be more explicit in their instructions to the missionaries.  The upcoming training will be a continuation of our training last week on the ward council's responsibilities for member missionary work.

After the training, the missionaries drove to a park at the RiverWalk in downtown Bradenton and played volleyball.  We were there for a few minutes and then drove to the Mission Office for a Senior Missionary District meeting.

All of the senior missionaries were able to participate.  We talked about our backgrounds and assignments, and had pulled pork sandwiches.  We decided that we would try to get together every two months or so.

Before returning to Sarasota, we picked up a bicycle for one of the sister missionaries.  It had been at a bike shop in Tampa for repair.  She was anxious to have it back since the bike she had borrowed from a member was much too small for her.  I'm glad that we were able to help out.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Make-up P-Day

Today we sort of made up for no normal preparation day this week.  We drive to the DeSoto Memorial Park in Bradenton.  We learned more about Hernando DeSoto who led an expedition into Florida and the southeast U.S. in 1539.  He was seeking gold in this new land.  He didn't find any but he did explore a large section of land.  In the process, he wreaked havoc on the native Americans living in the area.  To me, the expedition seems like it was a disaster.  It certainly was for DeSoto who died of a fever.

We then drove to the neighbor Robinson Nature Preserve.  I had hoped to take some bird pictures, but there were not many birds around.  And it was threatening to rain.

In addition to it being hot and humid in Florida in the summer, it also rains most afternoons.

Renee's comments:  I received this unique key chain for Mother's Day from David and Maile.  You can see how much it has grown from when I received it on May 10 until today.  Not sure what it will do from here!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Catch Up Day

Today we working mostly in our apartment catching up on various assignments and projects.  Nothing much to report.