Monday, August 31, 2015

Departing Missionaries Dinner

This was a bitter sweet day.  We drove to the mission home, north of Tampa, to meet with the departing missionaries.  There were 7 missionaries who are departing early tomorrow morning -- all of them had leadership positions in the mission.  With each departing missionary group, we wonder how we will replace the leadership.  But it seems as though new leaders begin to emerge as the younger missionaries gain more experience.

One of the departing missionaries, Elder Janda, is from Toulouse, France.  He is facing a 19 hour flight home, including two long layovers.  He will not arrive at home until Wednesday.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Visit to Sarasota YSA Branch

The rotation through the stake units brought us to the Sarasota YSA branch today.  That was fortunate because we were able to witness the confirmation of Bro. Arquette who was baptized last evening.  He is divorced and has a son, so he will probably end up attending the Sarasota Ward.

There were about 50 in attendance at the sacrament meeting.  The former branch president, Pres. Weir, who is leaving for a job in Germany spoke briefly.  He was a good branch president as is the current president, Pres. Jackson.

The challenge for the branch, as is true of many branches, is more active sisters than active brethren.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Baptisms Day

We went to two baptisms today.  The first was a brother in the Sarasota Ward.  The baptism was a 1 pm, so we did two apartment inspections on the way to the Sarasota chapel.  The brother who was baptized grew up on the Big Island of Hawaii, so I enjoyed talking with him about our Hawaii experiences.

While at that baptism, the district leader, Elder Ellsworth, asked us if we were supposed to go to all of the baptisms.  I told him that we tried to go to all the baptisms that we knew about.  So he said there was another baptism that evening.  So we returned to the Sarasota chapel for a baptism in the Sarasota Young Single Adult branch.

Both of these baptisms were the result of referrals.  One from a member, and the other from an active, non-member.  The active, non-member is working through some issues that need to be resolved before baptism.  Hopefully that will be done soon.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Unusual Day

We had a rather busy day, which actually started yesterday evening.  I received a call from Elder Casperson, a district leader in the Sarasota Zone.  He called to ask if I could conduct a special considerations baptismal interview.  I told him that I could do it, but he needed to contact Pres. Cusick first.  The challenge is that the investigator was scheduled for baptism this evening.

So all of the arrangements were made, and we drove to Bradenton this morning to conduct the interview.  Since the interview needed to be done in Spanish, Elder Casperson met me there to do the translation.  I then contacted Pres. Cusick, and he gave his permission to proceed with the baptism this evening.  We then drove to the mission office to return the van that we used for the temple trip.  While there, we discussed the tropical storm that is approaching Florida and the potential impact on the missionaries.  At this time, it is still classified as a tropical storm and not hurricane.

We drove back to our apartment.  Renee then spent over an hour on the phone with the Church missionary medical department learning about the medical records system for the missionaries.  Since our mission nurse has completed his calling, Renee will be helping with the medical needs until a new nurse is called.

Following that long training, we drove back to Bradenton for the baptism.  The baptismal services were in Spanish.  We couldn't understand anything, but they seemed nice.  They asked the brother to share his testimony.  During that, he became emotional.  Afterwards, I asked the missionaries what had caused that.  They said he was talking about his deceased mother, who was a member, and how she was looking down at him and was happy.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Temple Trip

We drove the Sister Missionaries from Venice and Port Charlotte to the Orlando Temple.  We departed at 5:30 am from our apartment.  The Sisters had to drive from Venice to our apartment, so they left at about 4:45 am.  It takes us two hours to drive to the temple.  We arrive at 7:30 am for the first endowment session at 8:00.

The Healeys drove the large van with 10 additional Sisters who had met them at the mission office.  So we had 14 Sisters Missionaries plus the four of us.  There were only three other people in the session with us.  As in the past, we met with a member of the Temple Presidency following our session.  The Sisters didn't have a lot of questions.

We stopped for lunch on the way back.  It is an enjoyable day, but a lot of driving.

The Sister Missionaries at the Orlando Temple

Sister Schaumkel and Renee, both originally from Hawthorne, California

Here we are at the temple.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Another Trip to Tampa

We completed some projects around the apartment -- hopefully I am finished with the financial issues at least for awhile.  We then drove to the mission office to pick up a mini-van to use for the temple trip tomorrow.  We will be taking 4 sister missionaries with us, and of course we can't fit them into our car.

President Healey asked us to drop off a deposit check for a new apartment being opened in Bradenton.  We will be receiving 19 new missionaries next week and only 8 are returning home.  So we need some new apartments for the net increase in the number of missionaries.  Two of the expected new missionaries are waiting for visas for the United Kingdom, so we don't know how long they will actually be in our mission.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

District Meeting in Sebring

The day started in a rush.  I set my alarm clock for 6:30 to prepare for our 8 am departure for the district meeting in Sebring.  It takes about 1:40 to drive there.  I thought I wouldn't need the alarm clock because I usually wake up between 6 and 6:30 anyway.  However, I forgot to turn on the alarm and didn't awaken until almost 7.  I guess I was tired.  However, I hurried and we were still ready to go by 8 am.

The district that meets in Sebring only includes 6 missionaries, 4 Elders and 2 Sisters.  Although it is a long drive for us, I'm always glad when we go there.  They appreciate our participation because I'm sure they feel isolated -- because they are.

The district meeting training today was a review of the zone conference training from last week.  Each missionary was asked what they had learned from the conference and to share a commitment he/she had made to change.  They then picked one of the commitments to role play.  The easiest to role play was talk with everyone, so that was selected.  The missionaries picked a "street" role, and then each companionship role played personal contacting.  They had a good time with it, and I think learned through the role playing.

Elders Alarcon and Swallow contacting old men playing chess, Elders Griffiths and Stuart  

Elders Griffiths, Stuart, Swallow, and Alarcon and Sisters Abbott and Paulsen

Monday, August 24, 2015


We did our normal apartment cleaning tasks today.  Then I suggested that we go to the Ringling Museum of Art.  When John Ringling bequeathed his personal art collection and building to the state in 1936, he specified that admission be free one day a week.  He wanted everyone to be able to benefit from seeing the art.  Fortunately for us, the free day is Monday.

They have a good collection of art and antiquities from the 1600s through the 1800s from a variety of artists including Rubens and Van Dyke.  They also have a reproduction of the David sculpture by Michelangelo.  It is outdoors in a gardens and is a bronze statue.  We like the original marble sculpture better :-)

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Visit to Palmetto Ward

We attended the Palmetto Ward today.  This may be the strongest ward in the Sarasota Stake.  The last time I counted, half of the stake high councilors are from the ward along with the stake YM and YW presidents.  Renee's comment at the conclusion of the meetings was this was similar to a "Utah" ward.  I think the primary difference is there are more less active members than in a Wasatch Front ward.

This doesn't mean there aren't challenges in the ward.  There are four missionaries in the ward -- two zone leaders who are each training a new missionary.  Unfortunately, the missionaries still need to spend time finding rather than just teaching.  The ward members do seem quite concerned about the progressing investigators.  In ward council, the missionaries reported that the members have also been involved in teaching lessons with them.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Continued Catching Up

I finished completing some financial and retirement issues today.  Unfortunately, the rest of the world does not go on hold while we are on our mission.  We still have to take care of "secular" items.  They aren't particularly challenging, they just take time.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Catching Up

Today we tried to catch up on a few things that we haven't been to do.  For me, my big accomplishment was to finish (hopefully) with all of the paperwork for withdrawing from my IRAs.  Since I have now passed 70 1/2, I have to withdraw a minimum amount each year and, of course, pay taxes on it.  I now wish that I only had one IRA because each investment firm handles the required withdrawals differently with their own form.  One of the companies required a notarized signature from Renee.  Anyway I hope that all of that is now behind us.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Another Zone Conference

Today's zone conference was held in the Tampa Stake Center, a 90 minute rush hour drive through St. Petersburg and Tampa.  Fortunately, the traffic wasn't too bad.

Two zones participated today, St. Petersburg and Tampa.  We knew the St. Petersburg missionaries because we participate in district meetings with them.  But again, we knew some of the Tampa zone missionaries as well.

The agenda was the same as yesterday.  We had worked on our presentation and were able to keep it under 5 minutes.  There seemed to be more discussion following the presentations today.  Hopefully the missionaries were able to learn something that they will be able to use to help them improve.

President and Sister Cusick

The combined zones

Tampa Zone

St. Petersburg Zone

Following the zone conferences, they hold car inspections.  The missionaries have inspection forms to complete on their car -- all fluid levels, tire pressure and depth, lights, brake and turn signals, and horn.  Sort a safety inspection.  For some reason, I enjoy seeing all of the cars with hoods up and missionaries swarming around.

Sis. Baugh checking tire pressure and Sis. Gibson recording the information.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Zone Conference and More

We drove to the Brandon Stake Center for today's zone conference.  Three zones were included, Sarasota, Brandon, and Lakeland.  We don't have much interaction with the Brandon and Lakeland missionaries, so we don't know them as well.  However, with the transfers around the mission, we know at least some missionaries in every zone.

President Cusick spoke about how their missions are the MTCs for the rest of their lives.  They will use the skills they develop on their missions when they return home and start school, careers, families, etc.  He said that we need to change a bit each day and get a little better.  Sister Cusick spoke on prayer.

When Pres. Cusick introduced the training on the core 7 topics, he said that we would have 5 minutes.  We immediately knew we were in trouble.  We had worked to get our presentation down to just over 6 minutes, which is the amount of time we thought we would have.  So we tried to make a couple of changes, but it still took us 6 minutes for our presentation.  Fortunately, we were not the only ones to go over the 5 minutes.

I thought the presentations were good.  After each presentation, Pres. Cusick followed up by asking what action items the missionaries had thought of related to the presentation/topic.  They had some good ideas.  At the end of the meeting, President Cusick reminded them that the training would have been wasted unless they took something away for their improvement.

Renee had mentioned to some of the missionaries that today was my birthday.  So the missionaries sang "Happy Birthday" to me at lunch.  Two of the sister missionaries gave me this birthday card:

Here are most of the missionaries at the zone conference.

The Sarasota Zone

The Brandon Zone
Following the zone conference, we drove to Clearwater where I had a baptism interview.  So it turned out to be a very long day.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Finished the Shopping

We met the sisters we have been working with at a store where Renee helped them with some purchases.  In so doing, she discovered a new store, Stein Mart.  We had been in one of their stores before, but Renee didn't think much of it.  This store is much larger and had a been clothing selection.  And she thought that the prices were very good.  So I suspect that we will be returning.

The rest of the day was spent finishing our presentation for the zone conference tomorrow.  We have between 5 and 7 minutes to present on member missionary work.  So we would have an example, I requested that a member send me her "story" of invited a friend's family to meet with the missionaries.  The missionaries have been teaching the family for the past several months and are optimistic they will be baptized (as is the sister who extended the invitation).

The other presenters will be zone leaders and sister training leaders.  The topics are what President Cusick is terming the core 7.  He wants to reduce the complexity of our training and focus on only a few topics (seven) and continue to emphasize them.  The topics are obedience, Book of Mormon, mastering the fundamentals, using time wisely, member missionary work, personal finding, and avoiding distractions.

Monday, August 17, 2015


Today was just a normal preparation day.  We cleaned, did laundry, did some grocery shopping, and so forth.  We also started preparing for the presentation we have been asked to make at the two zone conferences this week.  Our topic is member missionary work.  Fortunately, we have seen some examples of members bringing their friends and neighbors to Church, so we have some examples to use.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Visiting the University Park Ward

We are commencing our third rotation through the stake units.  Today we visited the University Park Ward, the ward where we actually reside.  The challenge facing the ward is that the building, which they share with other units, is several miles from the boundaries of the ward.  This makes missionary work difficult because investigators need to drive a long distance to get to Church meetings.  It probably also has an impact on the members who may be deterred by the distance.  On the other hand, the ward boundary encompasses a medical school (osteopathic), and there are several young, active families moving in each year.

The missionaries assigned to the ward are the ones who live in our apartment complex.  They are working hard but not seeing much success as measured by number of investigators.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Shopping and Baptizing

Renee went shopping with the sisters again today.  They don't have good alternatives for clothing in their area, so President Cusick gave them permission to travel here.  We have a lot of shopping alternatives for them.  Renee accompanied them because they are out of their area and also to advance some funds for them.

Following the shopping, we drove to Lakeland for the baptism of Bro. Jimenez,  the brother I had interviewed on Thursday evening.  Although the meeting was in Spanish, there was a nice spirit there.  He seemed very excited to be baptized.  He emigrated from Cuba 15 years ago.

The exciting part of the evening was driving to the chapel in Lakeland, about 1 1/4 hours drive.  As we approached Lakeland, the heavens opened, and we experienced another torrential deluge.  We were on a toll road, and some cars pulled over to the shoulder because it was raining so hard it was hard to see.  I just drove slowly.  Once we left the toll road, the road quality dropped significantly.  We had to cope with major puddles in the road.  As we drove through them, there were waves of water coming over the car.  The largest one was just before arriving at the church building.  I wasn't sure that our car was going to make it through the "lake."  But fortunately we did.

Bro. Jimenez, Sis. Takaki (Brazil), and Sis. Torres

Friday, August 14, 2015

Mission Leadership Council

We drove to Tampa today for the Mission Leadership Council.  The meeting included the zone leaders and the sister training leaders.  President Cusick conducted discussions on a range of topics.  He wanted their views about some of the training topics.  He also asked specific questions about missionaries and companionships to help him learn where there might be problems.

He has decided to focus the training for the next while on 7 core topics: obedience, Book of Mormon, master the fundamentals, use time wisely, member missionary work, personal finding, and forget and eliminate distractions.  We were organized into teams to teach a short lesson using 1st Nephi on one of the specific topics.  For the zone conferences next week, he assigned sister training leaders and zone leaders to teach one of the topics.  Renee and I have the assignment to teach on member missionary work.

Here are the participants in the MLC including President Cusick.

The Florida Tampa Mission Leadership Council

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Stormy Day

We drove to Tampa to do an apartment inspection.  It was raining slightly when we went into the apartment.  While there, the light rain turned into a torrential downpour.  It was hard to distinguish between the individual raindrops.  We waited for awhile in the apartment hoping the rain would stop, but it didn't.  So we finally decided to dash for the car.  Unfortunately, I had parked in a low spot in the parking lot.  We had to wade through a stream of water about 6" deep.  Renee took off her shoes.  I just sloshed through and had wet shoes for the rest of the day.

As we were leaving the apartment, we saw the two Elders who live there returning on their bikes.  They were absolutely soaked.  I had to chuckle because as they were turning into the apartment complex, the senior companion gave the right turn hand signal.  Obviously an obedient missionary.

We then drove slowly through the rain to Lakeland where I had a special considerations baptism interview.  The Sisters found this brother as they were bicycling up a hill.  They said they were hot and sweaty and out of breath.  But they remembered they were to talk with everyone.  So they asked him if he would like to learn about the Church, and he saw yes.  In the intervening month, he has attended church meetings every week.  As they were teaching him, he told the Sisters that on the day they saw him, he had felt that he should go outside and stand (in the hot, muggy weather).  It was good that they all responded to inspiration.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

More Inspections

We drove to St. Petersburg again for apartment inspections.  We went to three apartments, slowly working our way north.  We then drove to the Hudson chapel for a special considerations interview.  The sister is working to make a major change in her life.  She has had a number of challenges and was introduced to the Church by a member.  She reported that the first time she walked into the church building, she had a feeling that she had never before experienced.  She wants to be baptized so she can continue to have that feeling.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

More Inspections

Today we drove to St. Petersburg for more apartment inspections.  Although it took an hour to drive there, the inspections didn't take too long.  The three apartments were close together, and one doesn't have any missionaries living there right now.  It is a nice apartment, and I expect that missionaries will be assigned there perhaps at the next transfer.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Zone Activity Day

Instead of the normal P-day, the zones were allowed to organize a Zone Activity Day.  The intent was for the missionaries in each zone to play and interact with each other.  We attended the Sarasota Zone activity.  The zone leaders had organized a volleyball "tournament" with four teams.  Following that, we had a series of intense dodgeball games.  Teams were organized without respect to companionships, so they were able to interact with different missionaries.

One of the fun things I saw was when they first organized the dodgeball teams.  Elder Mazivila, from Mozambique, had never played dodgeball before.  So just before the game started, he raced across the floor to ask his companion, Elder Stanley, how to play the game.  Then he raced back to start the game.  And he played well.

They had organized plenty of food -- a taco bar.  After dinner, they met for a lesson on praying with those they contact and helping investigators make and keep commitments.  They ended with a brief testimony meeting.

I thought it was a beneficial meeting for all of the missionaries.  Everyone was involved and engaged.  Some of the missionaries I worry about were smiling and and seemed happy.  There was a good spirit during the concluding meeting.

Renee had some additional activities during the day.  Before the Zone Activity, she met two sisters to help them shop for some clothes.  And then following the meeting, she spent quite a while meeting individually and together with another two Sisters who are having some challenges in their companionship.

The intensely competitive dodgeball game

The Sarasota Zone

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Visit to Beneva Branch

We attended the meetings of the Beneva Branch today.  This is the other Spanish-speaking branch in the stake.  Of course, we were completely at a loss for understanding what was being said in the meetings.  They did seem to appreciate our attendance though.

Following the block of meetings, they held their branch council.  There are five full-time missionaries assigned to the branch, three Elders and two Sisters.  Until the last transfer, they only had the two sisters.  Two Elders were added, and then another was added on an emergency transfer.  So with us, there were 7 missionaries in the branch council.  We were matched by 7 branch members in attendance.

The branch president is trying to encourage more missionary work by the branch members.  He said that the Lord has sent them additional missionaries, so the branch members need to get busy to develop contacts for the missionaries to teach.  Hopefully they will.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

More Apartment Inspections

We are trying to keep on schedule with our apartment inspections.  We visited two apartments today, both in Bradenton.  One apartment temporarily has four sisters.  It is tight quarters for the four of them.  The benefit is that the sisters have become quite close, even though they say they only see each other for an hour in the evening.

One of the zone leaders lives in the other apartment, and that apartment was almost spotless.  We suggested that they do one thing.  This evening they texted us that they had done it.  I wish all of the missionaries were that responsive.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Long Drive for an Apartment Inspection

We decided to drive to Lake Placid to inspect the Elders' apartment there. That is a 90 minute drive for us.  Before heading there, we stopped at a shoe store for Renee to exchange some shoes.  We have found a store that carries shoes with good arch support, though they are not inexpensive.  Renee had purchased a pair of shoes but unfortunately they were rubbing on her feet because they were too narrow.  She returned them and was able to find a better fitting replacement.

We then drove to Lake Placid.  This is probably our least favorite apartment.  The challenge is that Lake Placid is a small town without a lot of rental options.  This apartment would be better if the Elders maintained it better, such as not leaving dirty dishes in the sink and making their beds.

On the way back, we stopped at the church building in Arcadia.  I wanted to get a picture of it because we may not be returning to Arcadia for Sunday meetings.  We don't have missionaries in the branch and Pres. Cusick would like for us to focus our Sunday visits on units with missionaries.  As you can see from the picture, there are actually two buildings.  The brick building on the right houses the small chapel, branch president's office, media center, and a classroom.  The building on the left is actually a double wide trailer which has several classrooms.

Arcadia Branch building

When we returned back to Sarasota, we decided to go to Siesta Key Beach to watch the sunset.  Since today was our anniversary, I guess this qualified as an anniversary activity.  The sunset was OK but not spectacular.  However, we were able to talk with some people about the Church and why we are in Florida.  So it had some benefit.

Renee at the beach

Our selfie at the beach

 And here is the sunset:

Renee's take on the beach and sunset

My take on the Siesta Key Beach sunset

Thursday, August 6, 2015

More Inspections

We drove to Venice to inspect the Sisters' apartment today.  They happened to be leaving as we arrived.  They didn't recognize us until we got out of our car.  They obviously weren't expecting us.  Fortunately, their apartment was in good shape.

We got back in time for Renee to go get a massage.  She had a coupon for a discount at a nearby massage studio.  While there, she said that she had talked with the people about missionaries and the Church, so I guess that qualifies as a proselyting effort.

It didn't rain on us at all today, so maybe the stormy period has ended.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Apartment Inspection

Today we continued with our apartment inspections.  For the most part, the missionaries are maintaining their apartments quite well.  At least they are taking care of the most obvious things such as vacuuming.  The most common problems we find are mold in showers, dirty ovens and stove drip pans, dryer lint filters clogged, and dirty air conditioning filters.

The Healey's were in Sarasota looking for additional apartments, so we met them for dinner.  We will be opening one new apartment in Bradenton and one in Sarasota as part of the effort to accommodate the increase in missionaries we will have at the next transfer in September.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

And The Rain Ceased (Mostly)

We awoke to sunshine this morning.  This was good because we were to drive to a district meeting in St. Petersburg today.  To get there, we drive over the Skyway Bridge.  Yesterday during the major rainstorms, they were saying to be cautious in driving the bridge because of the high winds.  No such problems today.

We were able to get to the district meeting without any difficulties.  The district leader, Elder Gneiting, is new, both as a district leader and as a missionary.  He has only been out three months.  I think he is a good missionary and is going to be a leader in the mission.  About 1/3 of the missionaries in the district are still working on the 12 week missionary training program.  This will be an ongoing challenge in the mission for the next several months.

The district meeting lesson for this week was a continuation of last week's lesson on engaging the youth in missionary work.  Although they discussed it last week, the missionaries did not meet with the youth in the stake.  All of the Priests and Laurels in the stake were on a combined activity -- a trip to Nauvoo.  I;m not sure how that fit into the Church's activity guidelines.

Following the district meeting, we drove to the Mission Office to pick up some apartment keys.  We will be starting apartment inspections again.  Our general directive is to inspect each apartment quarterly.  So we will be rotating through the apartments that have been assigned to us -- roughly half of the apartments.

Monday, August 3, 2015

P(recipitation) Day

We arose this morning to a torrential rainstorm that lasted most of the morning.  According to the news, it had rained most of the night.  All of the rain caused some major flood problems north of Tampa.  Nothing was reported about any major problems in the Sarasota area.  Although the rain ended by the afternoon, we just stayed in our apartment and did our preparation day chores.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Spanish Sunday

Today we attending the Cortez Branch, a Spanish-speaking branch that meets in Bradenton.  In the branch council, Sisters Jahnel and Bryan translated for us.  However, for the rest of the meetings, they were with investigators and they should have been.  That meant we were on our own.  In Priesthood Meeting, they asked one of the branch members to translate for me so I could follow along with the lesson.

Many of the members speak and understand Spanish, so we could talk with them between meetings.  I understand that they conduct their Primary in English because the children prefer English to Spanish.  I guess the adults want to maintain their Spanish.  And there are some branch members who do not understand English.

The Sisters told us there were 10 investigators, including children, in attendance.  Obviously this is good news.  The other good news, at least for us, is that they meet on the 1 pm block.  And the Bradenton chapel is only 30 minutes from our apartment.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Computer Day

We didn't have any assignments today, so we worked at home.  Renee worked on her financial affairs, paying bills, tithing, and so forth.  My accomplishment was updating the operating system on my main laptop computer to Windows 10.  I didn't have any real challenges with the update, but it was very slow.  That is probably because the laptop is old.  I only have three more computers to update, including Renee's laptop.  I'm not looking forward to updating her computer because it has very little free disk space.