Monday, November 30, 2015


This would qualify as a real preparation day.  During the morning, we did our typical weekly chores.  Then I took Renee to have her hair done.  Since it is a 30 minute drive to get to the hair place, I didn't want to drive back to the apartment.  I would just arrive and then need to turn around and drive back.

So I decided to drive south to an Audubon site called the Venice Rookery.  This is a small island in the middle of a very small lake.  Since it is protected from predators, a number of birds use it as a place to build nests.  It is still early in the nesting season, but there were several great blue herons there.  I will go back in a few weeks when perhaps there will be more birds.

A Great Blue Heron

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sarasota Ward

We visited the Sarasota Ward today.  As it turned out, the bishop was out of town with his family, and it appeared that many of the ward members were also traveling.  They did not hold a ward council meeting, so we were just there for the three hour block.  Even though they had four speakers for Sacrament Meeting, they still had some time remaining, so the first counselor in the bishopric asked if I would be willing to speak.  So I spoke on our permanently assigned topic, missionary work.

One of the ward members works in a restaurant, and they had 40 pounds of turkey meat left after Thanksgiving Day.  He volunteered to take it and brought it to the meetinghouse today with servings wrapped on individual plates.  He told the ward members to please take them.  We took one of the last plates to give to the Elders who live in our apartment complex.  They really appreciated it.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Another Slow Day

I had some projects to work on this morning.  These included important tasks such as changing the shower heads in our apartment and preparing the picture for our Christmas cards.  But I was able to get everything completed!  Our big task was going to Costco.  We ate at the food court in the mall adjacent to Costco.  While eating, a brother, seeing our name badges, came over to talk with us.  He belongs to the Bradenton Ward.

Our name badges make us very visible.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Black Friday

We didn't have any assignments for today, so we did a bit of the traditional day after Thanksgiving activities, shopping.  We are located near a major mall, so we didn't even need to do much driving.  As is often the case, shopping really meant looking as we didn't make many purchases.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving Day and District Meeting in Arcadia

With the transfers, two companionships were moved out of the Sarasota Zone -- one in Sebring and one in Port Charlotte.  They were both part of the south district of the zone, so Pres. Cusick asked me to look at how that zone might be reconfigured.  I proposed moving two companionships from the north zone to the south zone but still have that zone meet in Arcadia.  This was done, so we decided to drive to that district meeting this morning.  The district leader is also new, as the previous district leader was transferred.

It was a good meeting focused on obedience and diligence.  The missionaries were asked to write some specific things they will do to improve on both this week.  The district leader, Elder McNiven, will follow up with them to see how they are doing.

Since today is Thanksgiving, Renee has been worried about whether the missionaries will be invited to families to have Thanksgiving dinner.  We think that all of the missionaries in the Sarasota Zone received invitations, though we had to encourage a couple of bishops.  For our dinner, we went to a neighborhood fish restaurant.  For Thanksgiving, they were offering a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.  The dinner was OK, and we had turkey left over to bring home.

We purchased a fiber optic tree at Walmart so we would have a semblance of Christmas in our apartment.  It went up tonight. 

Our Christmas Decoration

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Transfer Day

The incoming missionaries had some training this morning and completed the normal administrative tasks -- insurance information, training on the new missionary 12 week program, initiated their iPads (which they can't use for a couple of weeks), and completed the driving requirements.  During this period, Renee and Sister Alexander, who is officially the mission nurse, interviewed each of the missionaries individually.  Most seem to be in good health.

At 1 pm, the transfer meeting was held.  This was as fun as always as the missionaries find out where they will be assigned and who will be their companion.  This is followed by the swarm in the parking lot as suitcases and bicycles are moved and loaded.

We then rushed back to Sarasota so that I could complete some paperwork for one of our retirement accounts.  Renee needed to have her signature notarized.  We completed the forms, scanned them, and email them back.

We have two new missionaries in our apartment complex, so we drove them around to show them were the Wal-Mart and other shopping is.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Arriving Missionaries

Because we stay in Tampa for the transfer time, we typically attend a district meeting in the Tampa area.  However, district meetings will be held on Thursday morning (Thanksgiving) this week.  Since we didn't have any other assignments, we volunteered to conduct some apartment inspections in the Tampa area.  Normally these are done by Pres. and Sister Healey.  However, they have been swamped with mission office work and are behind.  So we did three apartment inspections.  Only one of them had problems, fortunately not severe.

We then drove to the mission home to meet the arriving missionaries.  Each time when the missionaries leave, we wonder how we will replace the leaders who are departing.  And then we meet the arriving missionaries and recognize there are some good potential leaders arriving.  This is a small group of missionaries, 6 Elders and one Sister.  One of the arriving missionaries is returning.  He was here for a short time a year ago and returned home because of health issues.  Hopefully those are now all resolved.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Departing Missionaries

It was cold today.  The high temperature was in the mid-60s.  The overnight low in some places was in the low-40s.

We didn't have any particular assignments during the day, and since it was our P-Day, we drove to a local park, Lettuce Lake Park.  The park is close to the Fairfield Inn and the mission office.  They have constructed some boardwalks along the Hillsborough River which provides viewing of wildlife and the swamps.  We saw one small alligator and lots of wading birds.  There probably wasn't as much wildlife around because of the low temperature.

We then went to the mission home for the dinner for the three departing missionaries, Sister Takaki (from Brazil), and Elders Ronfeldt and Hedin.  We have worked with all three, so it is sad to see them leave.  But they are starting another exciting chapter in their lives.

Elder Ronfeldt was in a tripanionship for the last few weeks.  He and his companions decided to finish his mission with a flourish.  They taught 76 lessons in his last week.  Many missionaries are struggling to meet the mission standard of 20 lessons in a week.

Elders Ronfeldt and Hedin, Sister and Pres. Cusick and Sister Takaki

Sister Takaki, us, Elders Hedin and Ronfeldt

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Visit to Bradenton Ward

We attended the Bradenton Ward today.  This is the ward where the baptism was yesterday, so we were able to witness the confirmation of Sis. Shives.  After 40 years as a Catholic, she has much to learn about the gospel and our LDS culture.  But she seems committed, so I am confident.

This was not the next ward in our rotation.  However, President Cusick had invited us to the mission home for dinner, so we needed to attend a block of meetings that would allow us to get to Tampa by 5 pm.  We had an enjoyable dinner with the Cusick's, Healey's, Elders Morris and Dance, the APs, and Sisters Huber, Olson, Harper, and Sackley, who live close to the mission home.  We also were able to receive some clarification on the Just Serve assignment.  This served as a real Thanksgiving dinner with our mission "family."

Since we will need to be in Tampa for the transfers beginning tomorrow, we are staying the night in our Tampa "home," the Fairfield Inn.

Saturday, November 21, 2015


We went to a baptism in Bradenton today.  The sister who was baptized first encountered the Church through her interest in family history.  Her neighbors are members of the Church, so she will be well fellowshipped.  I overheard her being introduced to her visiting teacher.  She asked what a visiting teacher is.  It reminded me of how much new members have to learn as they join the Church.

Elder Mazivila, Sister Shives, Elder Bake

Elder Mazivila, Sister Shives, Elder Bake, and us.

Elders Mazivila, Ware, Bowden, and Bischoff.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Continuing Projects

We continued to work in our apartment to complete some projects.  The major project was completing the compilation of service opportunities on Just Serve.  The service opportunities are posted by city, so we need to search the database by each city in our mission.  For many cities (wards), no organizations have posted service opportunities.

The concept is that we can find service opportunities for the missionaries that have been posted on the website.  However, there still are not many opportunities posted.  I think that we are still a few months away from fulling implementing the program.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Projects and Interview

We spent most of the day working on some projects.  We prepared the spreadsheet with the basic medical information for the missionaries arriving next week.  We also started working on reviewing the organizations that have posted service opportunities on the Church's Just Serve website.

We finished the day by driving to Bradenton where I had a special considerations interview.  This was an interesting interview.  It took a much longer time than I had expected because the person I was interviewing liked to talk.  So the interview was really more of a conversation.  But it was an enjoyable conversation.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Long Distance Day

We started the day editing a list of expectations for senior missionaries that were given to President Cusick at a recent mission presidents training.  Basically the expectations are that senior missionaries are not to travel around, including going home, and all senior missionaries should be assigned to a specific ward.  We will continue with our assignment to the Sarasota Stake but will spend more time working with the University Park Ward.

We then drove an hour to Largo to do an apartment inspection.  As we were finishing, the sisters who live there returned from a mission training program, called "metro."  The training is conducted by the assistants and one set of Sister Training Leaders.  The sister missionaries who attended were very complimentary.

We then drove another hour north to the Hudson Ward for a special considerations interview.  It was an excellent interview.  The brother first encountered the Church 20 years ago.  When the missionaries tracted his home, he immediately knew who they are and invited them in.  He had been praying for the Lord to help him make changes in his life.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Very Long Day

Our assignment today was to take a group of Elders to the temple in Orlando.  My day started at 3 am this morning.  Renee slept a little longer.  We needed to be on the road by 4:30 am to start collecting missionaries for the temple trip.  We picked up one Elder in Bradenton and then drove to the mission office.  There we picked up 5 additional Elders and changed to the large mission van.  We next stopped in Lakeland to pick up three more Elders.  Then off to the temple.  We were a bit delayed because I missed the exit and then one of the missionaries had left his temple recommend in his wallet in his car.  But everything worked out.  We had a good temple session and then were able to meet with Pres. and Sister Allen, a counselor in the temple presidency.  The missionaries had some good questions for them.

We then reversed the process in returning back.  All in all, it took most of the day.  Not all of the day because I had a special considerations interview scheduled in Bradenton.  Unfortunately, the sister who was to be interviewed is having second thoughts about being baptized.  The missionaries who have been teaching her talked with her for about a half hour and then decided to cancel the interview.  Hopefully it will just be postponed not cancelled all together.

  Temple group:  Elders Settle, Terry, Simons, Lake, Brossa, Brandon, Gardner, Haslem and Nettleton.

Same missionaries, different view of the temple.

Elder and Sister Wilson at the Orlando Temple.

Sister Wilson learning how to take a group selfie.

The missionaries having fun in the van.

Monday, November 16, 2015


We decided for our preparation day to go to the beach.  The temperature is a bit lower now than during the summer.  We were able to have a couple of pleasant hours.  I did my normal walk along the beach looking for shells.  We have enough shells now that I only bother to pick up those that are larger, unique, or colorful.  I didn't find any large shells but did find a few colorful ones.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Visit to Palmetto Ward

We visited the Palmetto Ward today.  This is a strong ward and provides much of the leadership for the Sarasota Stake.  I believe half of the High Councilors are from the ward.  Because of a recent "emergency transfer" there are now 6 missionaries assigned to the ward.  Including us, missionaries constituted about 1/3 of the ward council this morning.

The missionaries were excited because they expected 13 investigators to come to church meetings today.  And they all came.  Normally the missionaries sit with the investigators on the third row in the chapel.  Today, they were on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th rows!  They didn't all stay for the entire 3 hour block, but some did.  I sat next to a young man who said he hadn't been to church in 12 years.  I hope that he felt the spirit in the meetings.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Arcadia Community Event

About a month ago, the sister who manages public affairs for the Arcadia Branch invited us to participate at a booth for the DeSoto County Week of the Family Fun Fest.  This is a week of activities sponsored by the branch which are oriented toward families.  This event was the final activity.  It was at a park where they had games and activities for children and organizations had booths to give out things to the participants.

We invited Elder and Sister Hardy, a newly arrived senior couple assigned to the Port Charlotte Ward, to join us.  We gave out copies of the Proclamation on the Family and quite a few pamphlets.  I wouldn't call it a rousing success, but one never knows.

We then drove back to our apartment (after making a quick stop at an art fair at St. Armond's Circle in Sarasota) so I could change into a suit.  This was for another special considerations interview that I had in Bradenton.  This was a bit different because the sister I interviewed was struggling with the Church's recent policy announcement regarding same gender marriages and children in such marriages.  She thought that the Church's policy was too harsh on the children.  We agreed after a long meeting that it would be better for her to wait to be baptized until she is more willing to accept the policy.

Sister Wilson, Elder Hardy, and Sister Hardy at the end of the Fun Fest.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Mission Leadership Council and Senior District Meeting

We drove to a park in St. Pete Beach for the monthly Mission Leadership Council.  The park is adjacent to the beach, and the missionaries always like going to the beach.  Basically, the only time they can go to the beach is if there is a meeting scheduled.  They were told they could come a few minutes early to enjoy the beach.  Then at the end of the meeting, President Cusick gave them 90 minutes to play on the beach.  They organized some volleyball and football games.  Some of the Sisters just sat in the sand and visited.

The training focused on helping missionaries become more engaged in the ward councils.  The district meeting training for the coming month will be role playing participation in ward/branch councils.

After MLC concluded, we drove a short distance to the Gulfport Branch building for a meeting with the other senior missionaries.  Everyone had a food assignment, and we had a nice visit about our missionary activities and assignments.

STL Sisters Sackley, Olson, Hubner, and Tawzer with smoothies on the beach.

The missionaries at MLC.  Sisters Cusick and Wilson were taking the pictures.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Only One Inspection

We dropped off some Spanish materials for the Elders assigned to the Beneva Branch.  They live perhaps 15 minutes away from our apartment.  We then drove to Brandenton to inspect another apartment.  Again, there are Sister Missionaries living in the apartment we inspected and it was in good shape.  While we were there, we rearranged the apartment for them, moving a VERY heavy dresser and putting their study desks in their second bedroom.  Hopefully this will make the apartment a bit less cramped.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

More Inspections

First we drove to the mission office to pick up some pamphlets and Books of Mormon for missionaries in the Sarasota Zone.  We also return keys from our recent apartment inspections and got some additional keys.  We are actually a bit ahead of our schedule for inspections and have picked up keys for some apartments that don't need to be inspected until December.  We are supposed to inspect each of the apartments assigned to us quarterly.

We then drove further north to inspect apartments for Sister Missionaries.  We expected that they would be in good shape, and they were.  One set of missionaries live in probably the nicest apartment that we have seen.  And what is better, there is a young LDS couple who live quite near them.  They are both returned missionaries, so they regularly do nice things for the Sisters, such as given them cookies and drive them to church meetings.

After finishing the apartment inspections, we drove an hour west to the Palm Harbor/Clearwater building where I had a special considerations interview.  I actually enjoy these interviews because those I have interviewed have developing testimonies and are striving to make changes in their lives.

All in all, we had over 3 hours of driving time, but hopefully we were able to accomplish some good.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Typical Tuesday

We went to the St. Petersburg North District Meeting today.  The training was on teach where you find.  The concept was that as the missionaries are finding (street contacting or tracting), they can begin teaching immediately by offering a short lesson.  Then they can ask for a return appointment.  They did a lot of role playing of this with other companionships.

The district leader, Elder Gneiting, is another young missionary who is anxious to learn.  Following the meeting, he stopped us before we could leave the building to ask what he could do to improve the meeting.

Following the meeting, we did three apartment inspections.  Two of the companionships were in their apartments fixing their lunch when we arrived.  That shortens the inspection process because Renee can just tell them what they should do to improve and doesn't have to leave a note.  Fortunately, all three of these apartments were well maintained.

Monday, November 9, 2015

P-Day and Some History

After completing our weekly cleaning, we went to the Gamble Plantation Historic State Park.  This is an old plantation mansion that was built in the 1840's.  At that time, the Bradenton/Sarasota area was considered frontier, so a land grant program was established to encourage settlers.  Robert Gamble, who had been managing a family sugar cane plantation in the Tallahasee area, took advantage of the land grant to begin what ultimately became a 3500 acre plantation with 1500 acres under cultivation using 190 slaves.  The mansion is not as large and ornate as on some of the cotton plantations further north.  Perhaps that is because he was a bachelor when he built and lived in the mansion.  It was built in the typical antebellim style with columns around the exterior.  The walls are two feet thick -- common in the mansions of the time as a means for keeping the interior cooler than the outdoor temperature.

Gamble Mansion - rainwater storage in the cistern on the right

Sunday, November 8, 2015

University Park Ward Visit

We visited the University Park Ward today.  We live in the boundaries of the ward.  It was fortunate that this was the ward on our rotation because we needed to visit the ward anyway.  The two missionaries who had been assigned to the ward were both transferred this week.  So I called Bp. Leedom after the transfer to explain to him what had happened.

Elder Salinas and Elder Casperson who are assigned to the Spanish-speaking Beneva Branch will have the additional assignment to work with the ward until the next transfer.  They left the Beneva Sacrament Meeting to go to the University Park Ward Council for a few minutes.  They reviewed the investigators and requested help with teaching and transportation.  After they excused themselves to return to the sacrament meeting, Bp. Leedom and the ward council members commented to us that they are good missionaries and asked if the ward could keep them.

After the block of meetings, we quickly drove to a Stake Missionary Coordination Meeting with the Zone Leaders and two High Councilors.  The meeting was in the stake office suite which is located in an office building not too far from our apartment.  The stake center is small and doesn't have room for the stake offices and a high council room, so the Church has leased space in the office building.  I wish there were more meetings that involve us held in that building because it is only a couple of miles away.

The missionary coordination meeting was good.  Bro. Reynolds, the high councilor assigned to missionary work, conducted the meeting and committed to follow-up with ward/branch mission leaders to help them develop ward/branch mission plans and remind the ward/branch mission leaders to hold weekly correlation meetings with the missionaries assigned to their units.  The missionaries committed to have the missionaries in the zone meet with the members of the ward/branch council to teach the 4 minute restoration lesson.  The missionaries should also continue to push to have investigators taught in members homes.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Work At Home Day

We worked in our apartment today.  We have a meeting with the Sarasota Stake High Councilor responsible for missionary work tomorrow.  We helped set the agenda for the meeting, so I want to be well prepared.  We are going to discuss how to help the wards develop ward mission plans.  So far as we know, none of the wards (or branches) has a mission plan.  I suggested that we also discuss how to help train the ward mission leaders.  I don't think that the stake has done much in training.  I have volunteered, but so far no one has asked for my help.

In my preparation, I found an excellent website,, based on Clayton Christensen's book, The Power of Everyday Missionaries.  It provides many examples of how members can be engaged in missionary work.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Another Inspection

We inspected another newly leased apartment today.  This apartment is also in Bradenton and is in one of the apartment complexes that we looked at in January when we first arrived.  It is located in central Bradenton which is a good location for the missionaries but would not have been a good location for us.

Because of an emergency transfer (ET in missionary speak), there are three Elders in a small one bedroom apartment.  It is crowded for 2 and really crowded with 3 missionaries.  Nevertheless, the apartment was in reasonably good condition.

We then drove to the Ellenton Outlet Mall, and I was able to find the pants I have been looking for.  We drove by the Mall at University Town Center near us.  They have a lot of outdoor lights and it looks quite nice.  They don't have many interior decorations though.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Apartment Inspections

We did three apartment inspections today.  One apartment is up for lease renewal, and President Healey wanted us to take a look at it.  The Elders who live there are assigned to the Beneva Spanish-speaking branch.  Although the apartment isn't great, the Elders tell us that it is a good location with lots of Hispanics in the neighborhood.

The other two apartments are in Bradenton.  They are both newly leased, so this was the first time that we inspected them.  One of them was OK, the other was immaculate.  The only difference between the two apartments is the missionaries who live there.

My clothes are beginning to wear out.  I had to buy some new shoes last week.  Today, I started to look for a pair of pants.  I had hoped that my clothes would last until the end of our mission, but that hasn't been the case.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Another Dental Day

We drove to Brandon for an appointment with the oral surgeon who pulled Renee's tooth.  This was a scheduled follow up.  Fortunately, everything seems fine and is healing correctly.

We then drove to the mission office.  We needed to pick up some additional keys for apartment inspections.  Also we picked up some materials for missionaries.  But most importantly, we were able to visit with Sis. Tollerton, the mission secretary, and President and Sister Healey.  We haven't seen them for awhile, so it was good to catch up with them.

This morning while Renee was getting ready, the water in our apartment stopped.  Renee had to finish washing her hair in the kitchen sink using bottled water.  I checked with the apartment office, and they told me that they are doing some work on the water pipes and had turned off the water.  They said they had distributed a letter about this.  I told them that we had not received the letter.  When I returned to the apartment and told Renee about this, she remembered that indeed they had delivered a letter, but she had not bothered to read it!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

District Meeting

We drove to Arcadia to participate in the district meeting for the south district of the Sarasota Zone.  The district leader, Elder Menlove, is a relatively young missionary, but he is doing a good job.  The training topics were on working with members and teaching the restoration lesson.  There was more emphasis this week on asking the missionaries to share successful experiences.

After the district meeting, we drove to Lake Placid to conduct an apartment inspection.  The apartment was much cleaner and orderly than we saw in our previous inspections.  Hopefully this is a positive trend.  Of course, there has been a change in the missionaries living in the apartment, so that probably has more to do with the improvement.

Monday, November 2, 2015


Our big activity for today was taking my car in for repair.  The needed parts had finally arrived, so they finished replacing the ignition coil and spark plug wires.  This seems to have resolved the problem, and our car is running better as well.  We would really have a problem without a functioning car.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Visit to Beneva Branch

We visited the Spanish-speaking Beneva Branch today.  This is the third Sunday in a row that we have visited a Spanish-speaking branch.  Although the branch members seem to appreciate our visits, from a selfish standpoint, we get more out of the meetings when we can understand what is being said.  We will be back to English-speaking units beginning next week.  We will be starting another rotation through the units in the stake.

I asked the branch president, who understands English and can speak some, if he or anyone from the branch attended the priesthood leadership meeting with Elder Soares two weeks ago.  He said no one from the branch was there, but they had received some information from a high councilor.  From the information given us by the missionaries, that training would have been helpful for the branch leaders.