Friday, July 1, 2016

Home

We arrived back home without any difficulties other than many hours in the car.  We stopped outside St. Louis on Tuesday evening and drove to Des Moines, Iowa on Wednesday.  We visited Renee's brother, Brent, and his wife, Judy.  We had not seen them in probably 10 years.  We then drove to Cheyenne, Wyoming on Thursday, and completed the trip on Friday.  All together, we spent about 37 hours driving.


It is good to be home, but we also miss the missionary service.  Now our challenge will be to find something else meaningful to do with our lives.

This is what we saw as we drove up the hill to our home.   We have thoughtful neighbors.



Monday, June 27, 2016

On The Road

I had hoped to be on the road by at least 9 am, but as is usual we didn't make that time.  But we were underway by 10.  We drove 3 hours to Gainesville and stopped for lunch with our friends the Parrino's.

Jim gave us a short tour of the University of Florida campus where he teaches.  There are about 40,000 students there.  The campus seems quite large with a lot of buildings.

We saw their home which is quite nice.  Then we finished the drive to Atlanta arriving at the hotel at 9:30 pm.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Last Sunday at University Park Ward

We drove the Elders to church today.  We laughed about how they would now be on their own.  They will be moving into our apartment.

It was sad to be leaving the ward.  I don't think we did that much because of our other assignments, but many members, especially Bishop  Leedom, thanked us for our contributions and positive influence.  One brother thanked me for being me.  He said he had learned much from me and my example.

When we did apartment inspections, Renee would leave a little treat for the missionaries, usually a roll of Life Savers.  She would leave a note thanking them for saving lives.  We had some Life Savers left over, so she gave each of the missionaries in the University Park and Sarasota Wards a roll.  They obviously liked them, though we had to explain to newly arrived Sister Chavez from Mexico what they are.

I packed some boxes in our car during the afternoon.  Then in the evening we attended a baptism in the Cortez Branch -- the brother whom I had interviewed on Friday.  He asked if we would come to his baptism, so I thought we should try.  It was a good way to end our mission.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Meeting David

I took down our cable and internet connection and returned the equipment to the cable company.  So we are now without a cable connection in our apartment.

We then drove south, outside of our mission, to see David who was at a business meeting in Bonita Springs.  (We had President Cusick's permission.)  Bonita Springs, and the Ft. Myers Stake, were part of our mission when we first arrived.

It was good to see him and be able to visit with him.  We had a long lunch, visited a small animal attraction -- mostly alligators, lizards, turtles, and exotic birds.  Maile apparently has had a challenging week, so he wanted to find something for her.  We stopped at a mall and he bought somes shoes.

We drove back to Sarasota and went to the UTC mall so Renee could return some shoes that she bought there earlier in the week.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Another Day, Another Interview

We did more packing and shipped two more boxes to Provo.  That is a total of 9 boxes we have shipped back - four with the Cusick's on the moving van for their goods and five mailed.  And I am still worried about whether we will be able to fit everything in our car.

I had an interview in the Cortez Branch.  The brother speaks some English, but I still had asked the Sisters to arrange for a translator for me.  It was a good interview though a bit longer than usual because of the translation.  When I asked him about some issues, he admitted to a previous transgression.  Then later in the interview, he returned to that topic and confessed some additional transgressions.  After having done that, he said that he felt like a great weight had been lifted.

The gospel changes lives.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Another Interview

We spent the first part of the day sorting, organizing, and packing.  We took three boxes to the Post Office to mail to ourselves in Provo.  The books were able to be mailed at the lower cost media rate, but the other boxes were rather expensive.

Renee continued to pack, and I drove to the Lake Hamilton building, about 2 hours, for another special considerations interview.  This was the first interview I had conducted in this building.  Pres. Healey when he was here conducted those interviews because it was closer for him.

The exciting part of the return drive was encountering a very heavy rainfall for several miles.  It is bad enough driving through torrential rain during the day because of the limited visibility, but it is worse at night.  I slowed down, but many drivers did not, especially the semis.  When they passed, they threw up a heavy wake.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Transfers

We started the day with some training with the new missionaries.  I'm not sure why, but this seems to be a good group.  However, as usual, some of them are arriving with some physical and emotional challenges.  Hopefully, they will be able to deal with them.

At 9;30 the missionaries who were being transferred or receiving a new companion arrived.  The parking lot at the mission office was the typical semi-organized chaos as missionaries found their new companion, moved luggage, and loading bikes.  It went fairly quickly.  I think the missionaries are becoming used to this new transfer process, but I preferred having the transfer meeting.

After the milling around, the newly arrived missionaries were assigned to their new companions.  They had some additional training, ate lunch, and then were on their way to their areas.  During this time, Renee and Sis. Alexander conducted medical "intake" interviews.  It is actually Sis. Alexander's responsibility, but since Renee did those for a couple of months, she likes to have Renee interview with her.

After all of the meetings, we drove to Hudson for a special considerations interview.  I was nervous about the drive through all of the traffic, so we left plenty of time for the drive.  We ended up arriving early, so we texted the Elders (May and Gardner) to see if they would like to join us for dinner.  Elder Gardner was in the University Park Ward for quite a while, so we got to know him.  It was good to see him again.

The interview was late beginning because there was a mix-up on who was to drive him to the chapel.  The Elders thought he was not going to come, so after waiting a while, we started back to Sarasota.  We had only driven a short distance, when they called to tell us he was on the way.  So we turned back, and I conducted the interview.  Because of the delay, it was well past 10 pm by the time we were back in Sarasota.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Arrivals Day

We did some work in the mission office and then went to lunch with the other senior missionaries.  They are a good group of committed and very capable members.  Sister Tolleeton is completing her service as the mission secretary.  She has served for 34 months.  She has done a great job and has provided great service to the missionaries.

We did some additional work in the office and then drove to the mission home (for the last time) to meet the incoming missionaries.  Seven were supposed to arrive, but only six were on the plane.  A Sister Missionary was arriving from the Mexico City MTC.  It took her over two hours to clear immigration and customs at the Atlanta airport, and she missed her flight to Tampa.  She finally arrived, and the APs returned to the airport to get her.  So it took awhile, but all of the missionaries arrived.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Busy Departing Missionary Day

This was a departing missionary day at the beginning of transfers.  We have the routine down by now, but today was busier than normal.  I started the day by loading my car with four boxes of clothing and other items that we will be shipping home on the moving van with the Cusick's' household goods.  Then I added some items we are giving to other senior missionaries, our tv, beach towels, and so forth.  The back of my car was stuffed.

We then met the Elders for one last lunch at Blaze Pizza.  We drove to the mission office, partially unloaded, then drove to the mission home and finished unloading.  The dinner with the departing missionaries was bitter sweet as always.  We had some interaction with all of the missionaries in this group and had worked closely with several of them.  It was a good group of missionaries.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Speaking :Day

We first attended the University Park Ward Sacrament Meeting.  One of the assigned speakers was not there, so the young women who attended Girls' Camp last week were asked to share their experiences.  Then we were asked to share our testimonies as the bishop knows we're are leaving.

We then attended the Sarasota Ward Sacrament Metting where we were the assigned speakers.  Renee spoke on fathers using the hymn "O My Father."  I spoke on home teaching and visiting teaching. None of the wards in the Sarasota Stake, or the mission for that matter, are very good at home and visiting teaching.

We then returned home and continued sorting and packing.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Two Baptisms

We did some more sorting in the morning and then attended two baptisms.  The first was in the Palmetto Ward.  This was a convert baptism combined with an eight-year old baptism.  The Elders and the sister to be baptized were there on time.  However, the family with the eight-year old were late.  I of course was stressing because we had to leave immediately following the baptism to get to the next service.  The Sister who was baptized was a bit nervous before the service, but she was pleased and excited following the baptism.  She said to Renee that now she has a family.

Fortunately it ended with just enough time to drive to Sarasota for a baptism in the Beneva Branch.  We arrived on time, but the people involved with that service were even more delayed than the first service.  So I was stressing for nothing.  Although it started way late, the service was fine.  The brother who was baptized seemed excited, though I couldn't talk with him because he only speaks Spanish.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Sorting and Packing

I don't know how the missionaries pack up and move with one day's notice.  We are still working on packing everything, and I'm sure we will be rushed to finish in another week.  Of course, the missionaries probably haven't accumulated as much stuff as we have, and we brought more with us to begin with.

Renee spent the entire day in the apartment sorting and working on the mission history.  I left twice -- once to get the oil changed in our car to prepare for the return trip and once to get some dinner.  Renee ate leftovers from our dinner yesterday.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

More Inspections

We finished up the last of our apartment inspections today.  One of the sets of missionaries was driving out of their apartment complex as we arrived, so they returned and visited with us for a few minutes.  We will miss the interaction with the missionaries.

We are happy that the apartments are generally clean and tidy.  I hope the missionaries continue to maintain their apartments that way.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Apartment Inspections and an Interview

We drove to St. Petersburg to conduct four apartment inspections.  Interestingly, our timing was such that three sets of missionaries were in their apartments when we arrived for the inspection.  That provide us with the opportunity to visit with them.  They all enjoyed the mission activity on Monday, which is not a surprise.  Fortunately, everyone returned safely from the activity.

Renee was interested in seeing touristy area in Madeira Beach City called the John's Pass Boardwalk.  John's Pass is a waterway between two of the offshore islands.  The boardwalk and surrounding area has a lot of shops and restaurants.  It was too hot to walk around, so we just drove through the area.

We did find an ice cream shop, Larry's, that Elder and Sister Smith recommended to us.  It was a good recommendation as the ice cream was excellent.

After finishing the apartment inspections, we drove to the St. Petersburg Stake Center where I had a special considerations interview.  I have done a few more of these since Pres. Healey departed since I am now the only counselor.  I wonder what the new mission president will do for counselors.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Errands and Packing

We had a few errands to complete since we didn't have time on our p-day yesterday.  We purchased some additional boxes for our packing and then worked on that.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Mission Summer Gathering

 The summer beach activity finally happened after being postponed because of weather last week.  The activity was at Coquina Beach on Anna Maria Island near Bradenton.  That made for a shorter drive for us.  The missionaries really enjoy having an afternoon at the beach, even if they can't get into the water.  It was very hot, so there weren't any pickup touch football or soccer games.  In fact, we planned on having 300 bottles of water available for them, and we ran out!

There was a lot of standing around talking.  The primary activity was the sand sculpture contest, although I don't think Pres. Cusick ever announced a winner.  Eating of course was a highlight, especially for this activity.  The Sarasota Stake Relief Society President, Sister Brown, provided the food -- chicken, potato salad, watermelon, and cookies.  There was plenty for everyone with missionaries taking chicken home with them.  Fortunately, she also brought lemonade mix, and the missionaries consumed it as fast as she could mix it.

At about 8, President Cusick sent them all back to their apartments.  Some of the missionaries had about a 2 hour drive to get to the beach park.  But I don't think they minded the drive at all.

 
Brandon Zone 
Tampa Zone

St. Petersburg Zone



Sarasota Zone


Lakeland Zone


Sunday, June 12, 2016

A Long Drive for Interviews

President Cusick was scheduled to conduct two special consideration interviews at the Tampa Stake Center today.  However, the Brandon Stake President really wanted him to attend a meeting in Brandon, so Pres. Cusick asked if I could conduct the interviews.  So we left early this morning for the 90 minute drive to the Tampa Stake Center.

We attended the Odessa Ward Sacrament Meeting.  This is a large ward with a more typical age distribution than we see in the Sarasota Stake.  They have a number of youth and it appeared a good sized primary.  The ward in located in the northern Tampa suburbs, and I assume includes a lot of young, professional families.

The two interviews were quite interesting -- a brother and a sister.  Each had had some major challenges in the past and are in the process of making significant changes in their lives.  I enjoy, and appreciate, being a part of these changes.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Baptisms

This morning we did some more packing.  This is going to take awhile.  We have accumulated a lot of stuff which needs to go back to Utah.  We will have a large shipping bill.

In the afternoon, we attended a baptism in the Palmetto Ward.  Three young people were baptized, the younger siblings of a brother who was baptized a month ago.  He has since been ordained a priest, so he was able to baptize his younger brother.  The parents of the four who have now been baptized attended the baptismal service.  They do not speak English, so the Spanish-speaking Sisters from the Cortez Branch attended and translated for them.  The children all speak Spanish but are more comfortable speaking English.

Following the baptismal service, Elders Treanor and McNiven invited us to join them for dinner.  I said we could do that but only if they allowed us to pay for it.  It was enjoyable visiting with them.  Interacting with the missionaries is our favorite part of being senior missionaries.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Packing Continuing

In a way it is sad when the highlight of the day is getting a haircut.  I told the barber that I have been going to that this would be the last time.  He is Muslim, and I have enjoyed visiting with him about his beliefs and perspectives compared to mine.  It terms of core beliefs about how we should live our lives, we are quite similar.

We will not come close to being able to fit everything in our car for the return trip, so I am packing some boxes of clothes, etc. that we will mail back to Utah.  I have worn out many of my clothes, so much of my daily attire will be going to the local charity, Goodwill.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

More Packing

Again, we took advantage of a day without any assignments to continue sorting and packing.  In addition, Renee spent some time on the internet arranging for a family vacation next spring.  Mixed in was some work on the mission history report.  So we were busy all day, but I don't know that we were very productive.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Packing

With no assignments for today, we continued with our sorting and packing.  It will take us a couple of days to get everything done.  We have several assignments over the next two weeks, so I thought we should get started.  One would think it shouldn't take too long because we brought everything in our car.  However, we have purchased a number of items, especially clothing, so we have more to take back.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Cancelled District Meetings

The weather continued to be windy and stormy.  Rather than having the missionaries driving to district meetings, some of them have long drives, President Cusick cancelled the meetings.  This greatly simplified our lives.  I had originally thought we should go to one of the St. Petersburg district meetings.  However, the Skyway Bridge has been closed since yesterday because of the high winds.  So then I thought about going to the Sarasota A District which meets in the Bradenton building.  So with no meetings, we didn't have to decide where to go.

Instead we started packing for our return home.  I know we have accumulated too much stuff.  I don't think we will be able to fit everything in our car, so we will be mailing some boxes.  That won't be cheap, but at least we will get it all home.

The weather improved during the day.  It was rainy and windy through midday, and then it started to improve.  By late afternoon, it looked like just a regular day, albeit rather humid.

Monday, June 6, 2016

P-Day and Bad Weather

It was raining, as forecasted, when we awoke, so I didn't take my normal morning jog.  We completed our weekly cleaning, while it continued to rain.  The Elders invited us to join them for lunch at Blaze Pizza.  And it continued to rain.  Postponing the beach activity was a wise decision.

This afternoon, President Cusick sent an email to all missionaries say that we should be back to our apartments at 4 pm and to stay there for the evening.  His concern is the increasing severe rain associated with Tropical Storm Colin.  The winds and rain are much worse in the Tampa area and further north.  We have been receiving a lot of rain, but no steady downpours yet.  I hope this is not a harbinger of weather to come this summer for the hurricane season.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Continuation of Stake Conference

We arrived over an hour early for stake conference, and already the chapel was filling up.  We were asked to park in the very back of the property on the grass, which was very soggy from yesterday's rain.  While we waited for the meeting to start, Renee walked about the chapel and in her words "said goodbye to people she would probably never see again."  Because of our rotations between the wards and branches, we have met a lot of good people.

The new stake presidency is Bro. Dreiling (current high councilor and former bishop of the Sarasota Ward), Bp. Bay (current bishop of the Venice Ward), and Bro. Bright (newly called counselor in the Port Charlotte Ward bishopric).  We have met all of them previously.  This will be a good stake presidency.

Again, Elders Schmutz and Andersen gave excellent talks.  We gave Bro. Bischoff a ride home again, and he was very excited.  I wish all members would be so excited about the opportunity to learn from our Church leaders.

When the meeting ended, it got exciting, but for a very different reason.  It rained during the meeting, so our car was parked in a shallow lake.  One of the other cars parked in the area got stuck in the mud attempting to drive through the small exit area from the grassy area.  Several brethren took off their suitcoats and pushed the car out of the mud.  I didn't volunteer to help.  I was able to slosh my way to our card and drive it out without any problems  And I didn't think I would need the all-wheel drive on our car while we were in Florida.

After returning to our apartment, we had several conversations with President Cusick about the mission summer activity scheduled for tomorrow.  There is a tropical storm headed our way, so finally President decided to postpone the activity until next week.  Hopefully the weather will be better then.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Sarasota Stake Conference

We participated in the Sarasota Stake Conference today.  The visiting authority is Elder Niel L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve.  The stake members have been very excited because it is so rare that a member of the Quorum of the Twelve comes here.  I was told by a long-time member that it has been 25 years since an apostle came.  The purpose of his visit is to call a new stake presidency.  And of course, to speak to the stake members.  Also in attendance is Elder Evan A. Schmutz of the Seventy.

I attended the priesthood leadership meeting.  The meeting began at 4 pm, but Elder Andersen didn't arrive until 5:15.  No one said what he was doing, but I suspect he was meeting with the newly called stake presidency.  Elder Schmutz really had to give an accordion talk to adjust for whenever Elder Andersen came into the meeting.  Elder Andersen mentioned that the new president had been called in his comments.

After dropping me off for the 4 pm meeting, Renee came back for the evening session.  She brought me dinner.  She came back early because we anticipated a large turnout for the meeting, and there is very limited parking at the Sarasota building.  As it turned out, there weren't as many at the evening session as I had anticipated (and hoped).

Pres. Cusick spoke and talked about Elder Schmutz having been the home teacher for his uncle for 20 years.  He encouraged everyone to be as diligent and develop a friendship as Elder Schmutz had done with his uncle.  Elder Andersen was very relaxed and informal in his comments.

Bro. Gordon Bischoff, who was baptized on New Year's Eve and has become a friend, was very excited about hearing an apostle speak.  Unfortunately, none of the other recent converts in the University Park Ward attended.  We drove Bro. Bischoff home following the meetings.  He said he was so excited that he would have difficulty sleeping.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Last MLC

We drove to the mission office on our way to MLC.  The ordered materials to complete the remaining SUV gift bags finally arrived.  We picked up those materials and then drove to the mission home for Mission Leadership Council.  Once again, we had another last -- our last MLC.

The missionaries made short work of putting together the gift bags.  They seemed to enjoy the interaction with each other as they assembled the bags.  And they were excited to get the bags so they could be delivered.

The missionaries like have MLC at the mission home.  It is a small enough group, that they fit into the mission home.  President Cusick also allows them to wear casual clothes rather than their regular proselyting attire.  President Cusick asked them for their opinions and reactions on several issues.  After dinner (barbecued hamburgers), the missionaries asked him questions, several about the transition to the new mission president.  He expressed his appreciate for their willingness to serve and their dedication as missionaries and leaders.

My contribution to the meeting was to summarize the Mission Hurricane Emergency Plan and passed out two summary sheets for them to give to the missionaries.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

More Inspections

We delivered some materials that missionaries had ordered from the mission office, and then we conducted two more apartment inspections.  This time we looked at a Sisters' apartment and and Elders'.  Surprise, the Sisters' apartment was much better.  Since the two apartments are in the same complex, the only difference between them is who the occupants are.  The Elders' apartment wasn't awful.  It just didn't compare well to the Sisters'.

We then drove to Costco.  We needed to buy some bottles of water for the mission activity on Monday on Anna Marie Island.  The forecast is for a very hot and humid day, so we want to have plenty of water for the missionaries.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Apartment Inspections

We conducted two apartment inspections today.  Both of the apartments are well maintained by the missionaries, in these cases Elders.  That is always nice to find.

I also prepared some handouts for the full-time missionaries regarding the hurricane emergency plan.  We are just beginning the hurricane season, so we want the missionaries to know what to do "just in case."  Renee is back working on the mission annual history.  The Church's history department would like the 2016 history through President Cusick's release prepared and submitted to them.  So it will only be a half-year history, but the incoming mission president will take it from there.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Last Temple Trip

We are beginning to experience the "lasts."  This was our last temple trip with missionaries.  We got up at 4 am (we won't miss that part) to meet the missionaries and drive to the Orlando Temple.  We had 8 Elders on this trip.  It is enjoyable to see how excited they are about going to the temple.  I hope they continue to have that enthusiasm.  We made it back to the mission office by about 2 pm, which is our target return time.  We picked up some keys for apartment inspections, materials for delivery to missionaries, and then returned to Sarasota.



Us and Elders Carter, Randall, Bishop, Smith, Blomquist, Robertson, Heluo, and Harper

Monday, May 30, 2016

Preparation and Travel Day

We did our normal cleaning duties and then picked up the Elders to go to the University Park Ward Memorial Day picnic.  It was a hot day, but there were still quite a few members participating.

After returning the Elders to our apartment complex, we drove to Tampa.  We met Elders and Sisters Alexander and Duffin for dinner.  We stayed overnight in Tampa in preparation for a temple trip with Elders early tomorrow morning.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Visit to Port Charlotte Ward

We drove to Port Charlotte to attend the ward there.  We haven't been there for awhile, and this is likely to be our last visit there.  There is now a set of Elders and a set of Sister Missionaries in the ward now after President Cusick pulled all of the missionaries out of the ward for a few months.  The ward has a new bishop, Bp. Mendez, who was called a week ago.  I think the previous bishop was ready to be released after serving for 6 years.

The Elders had a baptism scheduled for Friday evening that was cancelled.  Unfortunately the young woman who was going to be baptized moved to Pennsylvania.  The Elders are trying to find her new address so they can contact the missionaries where she is now.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Baptisms, More SUV Gift Bags, and a Blessing

We started the day with an early baptismal service in the University Park Ward.  The baptism was a 8 am.  It was scheduled for the early time because ward members were planning on cleaning the building starting at 9.  The building is going to be "deep cleaned" in preparation for the Sarasota Stake Conference in two weeks.  Elder Anderson of the Quorum of the Twelve will be the visiting authority.  He is coming because there will be a change in the stake presidency.

A young woman was baptized who has been taught by Elders Bowden and Buckway.  Her boyfriend came and mentioned to Renee that he was going to be the next baptism.  The Elders had been teaching him, but then he stopped meeting with them.  They were surprised that he came to the baptism.

We then drove to St. Petersburg to deliver 12 more gift bags to them.  They have been upset that they don't have all of the gift bags, so we pieced together a few more for them.  Additional materials have been ordered to complete all of the gift bag requests, but we won't receive them for another week or so.

We then drove back to Sarasota and met with Sister Missionaries to give a blessing.  I think the Sisters are more comfortable asking me for a blessing rather than asking the Elders.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Some Gift Bag Deliveries

We had three gift bag requests from the Sarasota Stake, and we delivered those gift bags to missionaries today to take to the requesters.  We also stopped at Costco on the way back and happened to see Pres. and Sister Clover, the Sarasota Stake President.  We had a pleasant visit with them.  He will be released at the upcoming stake conference, and they are planning on serving a mission.

After returning to our apartment, I sent some additional information to the St. Petersburg Stake leaders.  I know they are frustrated that we don't have enough gift bags for them.  We are frustrated too.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Trip to Tampa

We drove to the mission office today to pick up some Books of Mormon to complete a few more gift bags.  We are trying to help the St. Petersburg Stake obtain some more gift bags so the guests from their stake won't have to wait so long for delivery.  We are still short about 55 bags for them, plus some additional bags for the Tampa, Brandon, and Lakeland Stakes.

In hindsight, I wish that we would have ordered more materials for the bags, but at the time we thought that we were ordering plenty.


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Transcription Done

We finished the data entry today and sent the data file to the stake leaders and also Sis. Duffin in the mission office.  As missionaries contact those who requested the cards, they are to summarize the responses and send that to Sis. Duffin.  She will record those responses on the spreadsheet.  That way, we will know who has been contacted.

The St. Petersburg Stake leaders are still bothered that we don't have all of the gift bags for their investigators.  As they have looked at the spreadsheet, they have discovered that many of those requesting the gift bags are members.  They are trying to figure out how to prioritize the distribution of the gift bags so they can go to the investigators first.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Transcription Day

We spent the day transcribing the copies of the request cards from the SUV Choir firesides.  I thought it would be useful to have the electronic file to use in following up on the missionaries' contacts with those who completed the request cards.  We had to enter the data from 610 cards.  Yes, it was very tedious.

While working on the data entry, I also was trying to calm some of the St. Petersburg Stake leaders.  We had more request cards completed than we had materials for the gift bags.  They wondered why some people from their stake who completed the cards had not been contacted.  Of course, the missionaries did not actually receive the gift bags to distribute until Sunday or yesterday.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Preparation and Beach Day

We hurried to complete our cleaning chores and then went to Siesta Beach.  We have intended to go the the beach for the past few weeks, but something seemed to always come up.  Of course, it has been so long since we were there, so we got sunburned.    Fortunately, it isn't too bad.  But then, the dermatologists would say any sunburn is bad.

On the way back, Renee wanted to look at a store for a wall hanging.  She would like to get something as a reminder of our time here.

When we returned, I started working on the request cards that were submitted at the firesides.  We need to transcribe the information from the request cards into a spreadsheet.  This will help us in following up on the requests.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Sunday at University Park Ward

We decided to attend the University Park Ward today.  This was partially because we hadn't attended the ward last week.  Also, after some long days with the choir firesides, we didn't need another long day.  Everything is about the same in the ward, except Bp. Leedom left the meetings because he was feeling ill.

They have major problems in getting ward members to do home teaching and visiting teaching.  Part of the problem is the ward members are quite dispersed.  Another problem is they don't have a lot of active members, so their assignments are quite large.  They are putting a lot of emphasis, so hopefully it will improve.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

SUV Firesides in St. Petersburg Stake Center

After a late night last night, we got up early and drove to the St. Petersburg Stake Center for another day of SUV firesides. This was logistically more challenging for the St. Petersburg and Tampa Stakes.  They have limited parking at the stake center, so they had to arrange for shuttle buses from a high school parking lot.  But even with that, there were more people who attended the firesides than yesterday.

The program was basically the same as yesterday.  Missionaries did an invitation blitz in the vicinity of the stake center.  We managed to get all of the Sarasota Zone missionaries involved, except for a couple sets who had previous commitments.  I'm glad that most of the missionaries were able to participate.

Again the music and testimony were excellent.  We had more people in attendance -- almost filled the stake center for the last fireside.  However, we had slightly fewer request cards turned for the two firesides, 283.  Still that was more than typical.

We were optimistic and had ordered enough materials for 500 gift bags.  Since we had in total over 600 requests, we will need to order more Books of Mormon and Restoration DVDs.  This will delay the delivery of some of the gift bags, but it isn't a bad problem to have.


These missionaries helped with the administration both days.  In the middle is Kenya Jackson, Gladys Knight's daughter who organizes the firesides.

Friday, May 20, 2016

SUV Firesides in Brandon Stake Center

We drove to the Brandon Stake Center this morning for the Gladys Knight and the Saints Unified Voices firesides.  Yesterday, Pres. Cusick decided to have the missionaries go on what I have termed an invitation blitz.  The missionaries tracted in the neighborhood (a couple of miles) of the stake center to invite people to attend the fireside.  The missionaries reported some good experiences and responses.

The first fireside was at 5:30.  We didn't fill the stake center, but we had perhaps 800 people there.  Gladys Knight was obviously the draw, but the choir is also good.  The fireside was about 90 minutes.  Sister Knight shared her testimony and talked about her conversion.  The choir performed several different types of music -- from spirituals to a Hawaiian song.  It was very enjoyable.

The purpose of the firesides is to have non-members come into an LDS church and see some of the diversity of Church members.  The choir has a range of ethnic backgrounds but a lot of Polynesians.  I was able to visit with some of the choir members, and Renee did the same.  The choir members travel some distance -- such as from California, Texas, Utah, and Georgia -- to rehearse in Las Vegas.  I think they enjoy singing and appreciate being involved in the missionary effort.

Renee's assignment was to meet and seat the special guests who had been invited by the Brandon and Lakeland stake presidents.  My assignment was to collect the cards that guests completed if they wanted the missionaries to bring a gift bag to their home.  The gift bag includes a copy of the Book of Mormon, the Restoration DVD, and a sampler CD of the SUV Choir.  Obviously, the intent is that the missionaries will have teaching opportunities.

More people attended the second fireside, perhaps 900.  Unfortunately, the stake center was not completely filled.  Nevertheless, we received 325 request cards.  They typically expect 200 cards for each day of firesides.  This is a good start.

After the cards are turned in, I made a copy of each card.  We then placed the cards in the gift bags and gave them to the zone leaders to distribute to the missionaries to deliver the gifts.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Preparing for Saints Unified Voices Choir Firesides

We will have Gladys Knight and the Saints Unified Voices Choir firesides on Friday and Saturday.  Today we completed our final preparations.  President Cusick is concerned that there will be empty seats, especially for the 5:30 session tomorrow at the Brandon Stake Center.  So he decided to have all of the Brandon, Lakeland, and some Sarasota Zone missionaries should tract in the neighborhood of the Brandon Stake Center to invite people to the firesides.  I called this the invitation blitz.  Most of the afternoon and evening was spent trying to organize this big effort.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Transfer Day

We participated in the training for the new missionaries in the morning.  At 9 the missionaries being transferred arrived at the mission office to match up with their new companions.  I went out to the parking lot to interact with the missionaries.  President Cusick also gave the new missionaries a break in their training so they could introduce themselves to the transferring missionaries.  It is good practice in introductions for them.  Most new missionaries are not very good at introducing themselves.

After the new missionaries were paired with their new companions and the training ended, we drove to Gibsonia for a special consideration interview.  I enjoyed the interview as the sister I interviewed was quoted passages from the Book of Mormon that were especially meaningful for her.

In turned out to be a long day for us, but it was an enjoyable day.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

New Missionaries Arrive

We did some apartment inspections in the early afternoon.  These are not apartments that we typically inspect.  One was in poor condition.  Renee asked the missionaries who live there to clean up the apartment and send her pictures.  Hopefully they will do that.

We then drove to the mission home to welcome the 7 incoming missionaries.  As usual, they are very tired because the have to get up so early to get to the Salt Lake airport.  President Cusick has changed the training for the incoming missionaries with less training on the first evening when they are wasted from travel.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Departing Missionaries Dinner

We drove to Tampa to participate in the departing missionaries dinner at the mission home.  I can't say that we really enjoy these dinners because we know and love the missionaries who are departing.  But it is time for them to move onto the rest of their lives.  There were 7 missionaries departing, and we had worked and interacted with almost all of them.  One additional missionary should be departing, Elder Dance, an A.P.  However, President Cusick asked him to stay for a couple of weeks to help train the new A.P.s, Elder Cantu and Menlove.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Sarasota YSA Branch Visit

We attended the Sarasota YSA Branch today.  It is a small branch.  We counted 27 in Sacrament Meeting.  However, they seem to enjoy each other's company, and there was a lot of interaction in the foyer.  Unfortunately they will be losing some strong, active members to marriage and moving.  They have a few returned missionary Elders in the branch now, but it seems most of them will be returning to school in the fall.

In the branch council meeting, a common thread was that people are not attending because they don't have transportation.  However, the branch R.S. president, who lives in Port Charlotte, took the bus today because the person she normally rides with wasn't coming today.  So if there is a will, there is a way.

The Elders for the Sarasota Ward also work with the YSA Branch.  However, they did not attend the branch today because they didn't have any investigators attending.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Hobbling Less

Renee's foot is still bothering her, though the pain is much less.  At least, that is was she tells me.  We went to a baptism this morning in the Sarasota Ward.  Renee was asked to play the piano.  This is an older sister whom the Sister Missionaries found tracting on Easter Sunday.  They visited her once and left a Book of Mormon.  However, she was ill for a few weeks, and they were not able to visit her.  When they were able to visit again, they found that she had been reading in the Book of Mormon and was very receptive to the gospel.

For the rest of the day, Renee worked on mission history.  She now has completed for this year through April.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Still Hobbling

The Aleve seems to be working, and the pain is decreasing.  Renee was able to limp around the apartment on her own.  By this afternoon she had stopped using the cane.

We had collected a rock chip in our windshield last week.  Today I had time to get it fixed.  Actually I had called yesterday to set up the appointment.  The technician said that it was good that I had it repaired because it probably would have gotten worse.

I also drove to Palmetto to deliver some packages to Elders Brau and McEwen.  The packages had been sent to the office.  At the zone conference on Wednesday, Sister Duffin, the new missionary secretary, gave us the packages and asked if we could deliver them.  The Elders live about 10 miles from us, so it wasn't too long of a drive.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Medical Day

We started the day planning to go to the Coquina Beach on Anna Maria Island.  We will be holding a mission activity there in June.  We wanted to see what facilities are available.

However, we stopped to mail two letters.  Renee said she would get out of the car to do it.  As she was walking back to the car, she stumbled and smashed her foot against the car door.

It hurt, but she was able to hobble around the beach.  However, when we stopped at the mall food court for a late lunch/early dinner, the pain was increasing.  By the time we drove back to our apartment, it hurt so much that she didn't want to get out of the car.  So we just drove to a nearby urgent care center.  They asked her on a scale of 1 to 10 to assess how bad the pain was.  She said it was a 9.

As we waited for the doctor, the pain increased.  They took x-rays, but the doctor couldn't see any broken bones.  He thought it was just a deep bruise.  He told her to take Aleve and gave her a cane to use.  We immediately drove to Target to buy some Aleve when we left the urgent care office.

We struggled to get her up to our second floor apartment, but we were successful.  I suspect it is not going to be a comfortable night for her.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Zone Conference in Tampa

We drove north to the Tampa Stake Center for the zone conference today with the Tampa and St. Petersburg zones.  The most direct route to the stake center is to go on freeways and tollways through the center of Tampa.  However, during rush hour there is always a risk of traffic jams.  So I took a longer route around Tampa, and we arrived without difficulty.  It is about a 90 minute drive.

As happened yesterday, the missionaries mostly arrived early.  They were to arrive and start car inspections at 8:30 am and start the meeting at 10 am.  President Cusick arrived at 8:25 am and most of the car inspections were already completed.  We arrived at 9 am and everything was completed except for one car.  (The missionaries had put the wrong address in their GPS, and they went to the mission home first.)  So today, the meeting started about 9:25 since everyone was there and ready.

The training was about the same as yesterday.  Our segment should have been better today because we had already done it once, but it just seemed better yesterday.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Zone Conference in Brandon

We met with three zones -- Brandon, Sarasota, and Lakeland -- at the Brandon Stake Center for a zone conference.  This was a bit different from previous zone conferences in that they asked the missionaries to arrive early and did the car inspections before the meeting.  Everyone came early and the inspections were done so the meeting started at 9:30 am rather than the scheduled 10 am.

The basic theme of the meeting was for the missionaries to teach repentance and baptize converts.  President Cusick emphasized the need to challenge investigators to accept baptismal dates.

We made our presentations on the two new missionary pamphlets.  I think the presentations were OK.  The missionaries were not as engaged in a discussion as I had hoped, but it was hard for them to discuss the pamphlets which they haven't seen.  I did find a couple of issues with the presentation Powerpoint slides that I have changed for tomorrow's zone conference presentation.

Monday, May 9, 2016

P-Day Work Day

Our P-Day started as usual.  We got the apartment cleaned up.  We then met the Sister Missionaries for lunch.  We have gone to lunch with the Elders a couple of times.  I didn't want the Sisters to feel left out, so I told them we would meet them for lunch today.

Sisters Clement and Shirley

After lunch, we then rushed to the mission office in Tampa.  We have an assignment to speak about the two new pamphlets the Church has prepared for missionary work, Temples and Families and Learning and Serving in the Church.  Unfortunately, we didn't have a copy of the Learning and Serving in the Church pamphlet.  So we drove to the mission office to obtain a copy.  We then worked at the mission office on our presentation.

We then drove to South Tampa for a special considerations interview.  We had never been to the Tampa 1st Ward building previously.  At least the route we drove to get to the building is through an older, but nice residential area.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

University Park Ward

We attended the University Park Ward today.  Actually, the Sarasota YSA Branch was next on our rotation.  However, Renee wanted to attend a family ward for Mother's Day.  They have a tradition in the ward of having the brethren teach the Primary classes and do sharing time so the sisters can attend Relief Society meeting.  So I attended Primary sharing time but didn't have any particular assignment.  The Elders taught a short lesson on the restoration.  Some of the children were quite sharp and already knew the Joseph Smith story.

In the afternoon, the Sister Missionaries came to our apartment to make their calls home for Mother's Day.  One was good about staying within the suggested time of 40 minutes and the other went long.  I finally suggested to her companion that she should tell her to wrap up her call.

In the evening, the Elders came to make their calls.  They were excited about their calls.  For one of the Elders, this was his first call home.  Both of the Elders went long, but they weren't too bad.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Baptism

We received an assignment for the zone conferences next week to train on two new missionary pamphlets that have been developed, Learning and Serving in the Church and Families and Temples.  These are to be used by the missionaries as they teach new members following their baptism.

Unfortunately, we only have a copy of the Families and Temples pamphlet.  So we will have to drive to the mission office on Monday to pick up a copy of the other pamphlet.  I will need to conduct an interview in Tampa on Monday anyway.  However, that will not leave much time for us to prepare our 30 minute presentation/discussion.  I think we will be fine with the Families and Temples.  I found a video that was used at the Church' RootsTech (Family History) Conference a few months ago.

We participated in a baptism in the Palmetto Ward later in the afternoon.  A 20 year-old young man was baptized.  His younger brother and sister who are also being taught attended along with some of his friends.  A woman who drives the school bus for the kids also attended and asked some questions about the Church.  I think she considers the children she drives, or has driven, in the school bus to be her surrogate children.  She seemed satisfied that our beliefs are OK.

Friday, May 6, 2016

MLC

We drove to the mission office to participate in the monthly Mission Leadership Council.  These are good meetings where the missionary leaders discuss various challenges facing the mission and the missionaries.  One of the current problems is there seems to be an increase in minor illnesses, such as colds and sore throats.  Missionaries are to be reminded to wash their hands frequently and use hand sanitizer if they are shaking hands.

The emphasis of the meeting was on preaching repentance and baptizing converts.  Most of the discussion was on helping missionaries teach repentance.  I think this is a challenge for missionaries particularly if they are teaching older people.

We talked a bit about the upcoming Saints Unified Voices choir firesides.  I think the missionaries are excited about attending and taking investigators with them.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Apartment Inspection and Search Day

We drove to Clearwater and Palm Harbor, an hour plus north of us, to do apartment inspections.  We also looked at two apartment complexes for a new apartment.  We like one of the complexes that we saw earlier in the week.

Both of the apartments we inspected we in quite good shape.  One of the apartments had several problems when we inspected a couple of months ago.  We asked the missionaries to have some repairs done in the apartment.  We were pleasantly surprised that those repairs had been completed.

After we completed those tasks, we drove a short distance to the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks.  For many years, this was the site for major sponge harvesting from the Gulf of Mexico.  Then some diseases wiped out the sponges.  When they recovered, the artificial sponge had been created and demand for natural sponges was significantly decreased.  The area now is a tourist location with shops, dolphin cruise boats, etc. along with a few shops selling sponges, including the Sponge Factory.  We stopped there to watch a film about the sponge harvesting and of course purchased a couple of sponges.

Renee leaving a note for missionaries following an apartment inspection.

Renee at the Sponge Factory shop.  I am reflected in the shop window.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Rainy Work At Home Day

It poured rain all day today.  This is common weather during the summer, so I guess summer is on the way.  Renee worked on the April mission history.  It is much easier to do it a month at a time rather than 2 1/2 years all at once.

I did some work on the Hurricane Emergency Plan.  We still need to find a chaperone couple for the missionaries in the Sarasota Zone if they need to go to the Sarasota building as an emergency shelter.  Then in the afternoon, I was asked to find out more about a missionary who has been accused of sexual harassment of an investigator.  From what I have learned, nothing happened, and the missionaries did none of what they are accused of.  From my perspective, the accuser is somewhat unstable.  It is unfortunate that such groundless accusations are made.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

District Meeting and Inspections

We drove to the St. Petersburg South District Meeting this morning.  Because of moving missionaries out of the St. Petersburg Ward, this is now a small district.  Only eight missionaries were in the meeting, plus us.  Nevertheless, it was an excellent meeting.  They had good discussions on being focused, avoiding distractions, and teaching repentance using the scriptures.

As we were driving into the church parking lot, we noticed Elders Mazivila and Gallagher had stopped to talk with someone.  Renee decided to take a picture of this example of this "talk with everyone."

We then did three apartment inspections.  The apartments were generally in good shape.  One of the apartments has a broken dishwasher with a pool of stagnant water in the bottom.  It is really foul smelling.  This problem existed when we last inspected the apartment, and we asked the missionaries to have maintenance fix it then.  I guess it isn't that important to the Elders who live there.

We also looked for a new apartment to replace one that isn't great.  We found a very nice, new apartment complex with a great apartment but a very high price.  Fortunately we also saw another complex that was more reasonably priced.

Elders Gallagher and Mazivila proselyting.

Sisters Evans and Jeffs, Elders Stout, Williams, Madsen, Brossa, Gallagher, and Mazivila.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Busy P-Day

We had a very busy day starting with our last seminary class.  The lesson was on Obadiah, which is the shortest book in the Old Testament.  The message of the lesson was to avoid the sin of pride.  Following the lesson, we returned to our apartment and did our weekly cleaning.  At noon, we met Elders Bowden, Buckway, Rees and Casperson for lunch at Blaze Pizza.  They enjoy going there, and we enjoy being with them.

We were invited to dinner at Bishop Leedom's home along with the Greenwood's, the former senior missionary couple who served here.  There was a lot of talk about ward members.  Unfortunately, much of the news was not positive in that members they knew have moved or are now inactive.

We raced to pass along the key to the stake office and the projector to the Davis', the regular seminary teachers.  We enjoyed teaching the class but won't miss having to get up at 4:30 am.

Elders Casperson, Bowden, Buckway, and Rees (l-r)


Sunday, May 1, 2016

University Park Ward

We attended the University Park Ward today.  Also attending was a senior missionary couple, the Greenwoods, who were assigned to the ward before we arrived.  The ward members speak highly of them.  They are very pleasant and friendly, so I can see why the ward members would like them.

Two recent converts bore their testimonies during fast and testimony meeting.  Needless to say, the Elders who taught them were pleased.

Bishop Leedom discussed some challenges ward members are facing.  He has a big load to carry.  Unfortunately, he has some strong members to help him with the load, just not very many.

We prepared our last Seminary lesson for tomorrow.  The lesson will be on Obadiah, the shortest book of the Old Testament.  That will give us a bit of time to review and summarize from last week.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

More Inspections

We did two more apartment inspections today.  In one of the apartments, we found a leak in their air conditioning system.  Water is running down the inside of the wall and creating a damp, moldy spot at the base of the wall.  We alerted the elders to the problem.  They said they had previously reported it, and supposedly it was fixed.  I told them it was not fixed, and they needed to have the maintenance people come again and fix it.

We went to eat at Tijuana Flats, a fast food Mexican place we frequent.  Elders Buckway and Bowden, who live in our apartment complex, were already there eating.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Apartment Inspections and a Baptism

We inspected two apartments today.  Both of the apartments were quite clean and orderly.  I think the inspections and the notes with instructions that Renee leaves for the missionaries have helped.  One of the missionaries whose apartment we inspected has recently had some problems with wasting time playing with Pokemon cards.  The zone leaders took his cards a few weeks ago, and he was quite upset.  While doing the inspection, I looked to see if he still had any cards.  He had a note on his suitcase indicating it was his personal property and no one was to open it.  We chuckled at the note, but we decided not to irritate him more by opening his suitcase.

In the evening we attended a baptism in the Beneva Spanishing-speaking Branch.  The brother who was baptized is the husband of an until recently less-active member.  His 15 year-old son was baptized a few weeks ago.  I believe this will be a strong family and a help to the branch.

We took Elders Willden and Stanley back to their apartment following the baptism.  We got there at about 8:30.  They said they still had some time for proselyting, so they asked us to drop them off at a nearby parking lot.  They were going to use the last few minutes to talk with people.

The seminary lesson today was on Amos.  The message was the importance of having prophets.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Car Wash

It had been weeks since I had our car washed.  Since we didn't have anything scheduled for today, I decided to take the opportunity.  I purchased a book of car wash coupons several months ago and still have one remaining.

The rest of the day we worked on projects.  I am revising the Hurricane Emergency Plan for our missionaries in preparation for the upcoming hurricane season.  The season runs from June 1 through November 30th.  Florida has not had a major hurricane for several years, so some people are saying that one is due.  The long-term forecast for this year is that it will be an average years for tropical storms and potential hurricanes.

We also worked on our upcoming seminary lessons.  Today's lesson was Joel and his prophecies about the Second Coming.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Seminary and Meeting

We taught seminary again this morning.  The lesson was on Hosea.  Teaching these lessons has been good for me.  It has been awhile since last read these books of the Old Testament.  We had four students again today.

We drove to Brandon for a meeting in the evening.  This was a planning meeting for the upcoming Saints Unified Voices Choir firesides.  The administrative details for these firesides are extensive.  I had thought it was complex from the missionaries perspective, but the host stakes have far more to do -- building cleaning, chair setup, parking, food, water, snacks for the choir, loading and unloading of equipment, etc.  It was a long meeting which meant we didn't get back to our apartment until late.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Apartment Inspections

We got up very early to teach seminary again.  Fortunately we had four students today, all girls.  Today's lesson was on Daniel.

We then drove to Hudson to do apartment inspections.  One the way, we stopped to pick up some books in St. Petersburg that a Sister had left in her old apartment.  We also stopped to do an inspection in Palm Harbor, but discovered when we arrived that no one was living there.  The Sister Missionaries who we thought were there were recently moved to another apartment.

In Hudson we inspected two apartments.  One has Elders living in it now.  Other than dirty dishes in the sink, it wasn't too bad.  The other apartment doesn't have anyone living there now but a senior missionary couple arriving next month will be assigned there.  The apartment will be serviceable for them, but it isn't as nice as the other senior missionaries' apartments.

We took the long way back and stopped at the mission office.  We dropped off the apartment keys for the apartments we had inspected and picked up more.  We have ten apartments that we need to inspect by the end of May.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Zone Activity Day

Rather than the usual district meetings on Tuesday, this week the missionaries were involved in zone activity day on Monday afternoon and evening.  So we had to hurry and complete our weekly cleaning and then headed to the Sarasota Zone activity taking the Elders from our complex with him.

Each zone was to plan activities for the missionaries.  For the Sarasota Zone, the missionaries played volleyball, then a basketball shooting game called knockout, and then some games in a circle.  One was a game I called chicken where they passed along chicken sounds between them.  The other, which they really enjoyed, was sending hand signals to each other while someone in the middle tried to catch someone in the midst of a signal.

They each had food assignments for the dinner.  Renee and Sister Hardy bought ice cream and toppings for sundaes.  They also bought paper plates and plastic spoons and forks because the Zone Leaders forgot to make that assignment.

The activity day ended with a training meeting on teaching.  All-in-all, the missionaries seemed to enjoy the activity.

The "Chicken" game

The signaling game with Elder Treanor as "It."

The Sarasota Zone, except for me taking the picture.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Bradenton Ward

We attended the Bradenton Ward today.  We have been rotating through the wards enough that we are beginning to develop some friendships.  There is a couple in the Bradenton Ward that we enjoy.  Sis. Brown is the Stake Relief Society President.  Her husband, Bro. Brown, is the HP Group Leader.  He is a retired high school teacher and assistant football coach, and many of the long-time ward members call him coach.

The ward has some challenges, as do all wards.  I commented to one of the Elders that the problems in the ward could be solved by the addition of 10 strong families with children.  This ward does have some strong youth which is lacking in several units in the stake.

Following the church meetings, we worked on preparing for the seminary class lessons for the coming week.  We will be substituting for the regular teachers, the Davis'.  Sister Davis graduated from the Marriott School a couple of years ago, and she remembered me from some meetings.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Baptism

Much of today was devoted to a baptism in the University Park Ward.  The Elders asked if we could drive them to the chapel for the baptism.  It is getting toward the end of the month, and they are running out of miles.  The missionaries are allocated a specific number of miles they can drive their cars each month.  They try to allocate the number of miles based on the area where the missionaries are located, but the missionaries never receive as many miles as they would like.

Since they needed to be at the chapel early to fill the font, we left earlier than we normally would.  And of course, we stayed later to help them clean up following the service.

They have been teaching the young man who was baptized for about a month.  He reminds them regularly that he had been praying for 3 years to find the truth and for direction in his life.  He is a very nice young man but very quiet.  Hopefully the ward members will reach out and fellowship him.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Health Care Day

This was an unusual day.  We drove to Tampa this morning to take a Sister Missionary to a surgery facility to have an endoscopy and colonoscopy.  She has been having severe stomach pain when she eats anything and has been living on soup and jello for the past several weeks.  We were told to arrive at the surgery center at 10 and her procedures were scheduled for 11:30.  We waited for 3 hours until 1 pm until she was finally taken in for her procedures.

After all that, the doctor said that they didn't find anything.  She has a small twist in her colon, but she has probably had that all of her life.  So she still doesn't know what is causing the problems.  They took a few tissue samples for biopsy, but the doctor doesn't expect to find anything.  One thing they will check for is Crohn's disease.

We then met the Alexander's and a newly arrived senior missionary couple, the Duffin's, for dinner.  The Duffin's are from Spanish Fork, and he is a retired staff member at BYU.


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Busy Apartment Inspection Day

We drove to the Brandon area to conduct apartment inspections.  We didn't have keys for two of the apartments, so we had to arrive early enough that the missionaries were still in their apartments.  Unfortunately, the sisters in one of the apartments had a teaching appointment and were not at home.  We called an left a message, and they returned the call as we were leaving.  They had an early teaching appointment.  They were very excited because the woman they were teaching had accepted a baptism date.

We also stopped at the oral surgeon who had extracted Renee's tooth.  He wanted her to come by after the new tooth had been put in place.  That was done a couple of months ago, but this was the first time we had been back in the area.  Fortunately, he said that everything was fine with the implant.

All together, we inspected four apartments.  They were all well maintained.  Hopefully the missionaries are learning how to take care of their apartments.  These are not apartments that we have inspected in the past.  The Healey's inspected them, and the Alexander's have taken their assignments.  However, the Alexander's are swamped still learning their new responsibilities, so we tried to help them out.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Apartment Inspection

We did an apartment inspection today.  It was nice because the apartment is only a few miles from us.  We then drove to Costco for some important purchases, such as milk and cheaper gasoline.  After returning back to our apartment, we did some work in preparation for the seminary classes that we will be teaching next week.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Temple Trip

We had a wonderful trip to the temple.  We left the mission office right on time at 5:55 am with 6 Elders.  We stopped enroute in Plant City to pick up 2 more Elders and arrived at the temple at 7:30 am just as planned.  We drove in the mission's 12 passenger van.  I really don't enjoy driving it, but it got us there.

We had a good temple session and then met with the temple president, Pres. Cox, afterwards.  The Elders asked some good questions, and Pres. Cox seemed to enjoy meeting with them.  He wears a small pager, and he was paged twice while he was talking with the Elders but just kept going.

After the temple session, we visited with some missionaries from the Orlando Mission who were involved in a service activity on the temple grounds.  The missionaries in the zone around the temple work on the temple grounds three times a month as part of their service.  I don't know whether our missionaries were envious or not.  The Orlando missionaries are able to attend the temple twice a year; our missionaries only once during their mission.

We stopped at a Panera restaurant near the temple for lunch and several members stopped and talked with the missionaries.  One of them gather two missionaries two $25 gift cards to use for future temple trips.

When we returned to the mission office, we drove to see how they were setting up an apartment for the senior couple who will arrive tomorrow, the Duffin's.  They also will be working in the mission office.  Sister Duffin will replace Sis. Tollerton as the mission secretary.  Elder Duffin will manage the fleet of cars which full-time missionaries have been doing.

Elders McNIven, Gneiting, Treanor, Newbold, Stout, Duffin, Madsen, and Walton (l-r)

Monday, April 18, 2016

P-Day and Drive to Tampa

We did our normal P-Day cleaning.  I have a regular routine of dusting and vacuuming.  I am surprised at how much dust I vacuum from our carpets each week.  The air doesn't seem that dirty, so maybe we just track in a lot of dirt from the outside, though that seems unlikely.

We then packed up and drove to the mission office.  We wanted to get there in time to pick up the key to the van we will be using for the temple trip tomorrow.  I also wanted to make sure there is enough gas.  While there we visited with Elder and Sister Alexander.  They are the senior couple who have replaced the Healey's in the mission office.  Sister Alexander is also the mission nurse, so she will be especially busy.

We are staying overnight in Tampa so we won't have to arise so early tomorrow morning to leave for the temple.  We need to be at the mission office to depart at 5:45, so that is still plenty early.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Mostly Normal Sunday

We attended the University Park Ward today.  The only thing that made it different from a usual Sunday is that we spoke in Sacrament Meeting.  I was visiting with Bp. Leedom a few weeks ago and mentioned my experiences with some of the Church members during the Communist East German regime.  He thought that would be good for the ward members to hear, so he asked us to speak.  Renee spoke on baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost.  I spoke on my interpretation of "enduring to the end" which is to be anxiously engaged in good works.

The story that Bp. Leedom wanted me to tell was the brother who decided not to escape to West German because he was concerned about what would happen to the branch of the Church if he left.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Baptism

In the morning we worked on the talks that we are to give tomorrow in Sacrament Meeting in the University Park Ward.  In the afternoon we participated in a baptism in the ward.  The brother who was baptized has been attending church meetings for several weeks, so we have been able to get to know him.  His brother came from Chicago to perform the baptism.  Now there are two members of the Church in their family.  His brother said that he has been waiting for 30 years to be able to baptize another family member.

Friday, April 15, 2016

A Long Dinner

We worked on some projects in our apartment through mid-afternoon.  I was working on the administrative details that need to be done in conjunction with the upcoming Saints Unified Voices firesides.  We hope these will be good missionary opportunities.

We then drove to Tampa to meet our long-time friends, the Parrino's, for dinner.  Jm teaches at the Univ. of Florida now, but is originally from Tampa.  They still have family in Tampa, so they are in town occasionally.  We met them for dinner at a nice restaurant in a section of Tampa called SoHo (South Howard).  Jim told us this section of town used to be rather run down.  Now it is the hot spot for restaurants and bars.  We then walked to another restaurant, Bern's, for dessert.  This is an interesting place where guests eat on the main floor and then go upstairs for dessert.  The decor is unusual with the interior divided into small rooms.  They also give tours of the kitchen and the very large wine cellar.

We ended up spending 5 hours visiting with them.  It was a very pleasant evening.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Sarasota Day

I worked on some projects in the apartment in the morning, and then we drove to south Sarasota for Renee's hair appointment.  I found a park in the area we had not visited previously -- Phillippi Estate Park.  They had a short nature trail that took about 20 minutes to slowly walk.  Fortunately, it wasn't too hot.  I then ate lunch and used the free wireless to catch up on email.

My final accomplishment of the day was to sign the lease renewal for the apartment in our complex where the Elders live.  We put them on a month-to-month lease.  It is more expensive, but the plan is to have them move into our apartment when we leave.  Of course, they will move our furniture out first!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Special Considerations Interviews

I had two special considerations interviews today.  We scheduled them both on the same evening because the wards are fairly close to each other but a long drive away from us.  These interviews probably would have been conducted by Pres. Healey.  However, the Healey's returned home a couple of weeks ago.  Pres. Cusick has not called another counselor.  I think he probably won't call another counselor, so the incoming mission president will be able to call both counselors.  But in the meantime, I will probably be conducting more interviews.

The first interview was a bit challenging.  The investigator talked a lot and didn't always stay on topic.  I suspect it was a challenge for the missionaries in trying to teach lessons.  It has taken awhile to get through the lessons, and I can understand why.  The other investigator has been a voracious reader about the Church.  He has had a member fellowshipper who has given him a lot of Church materials to read.  The missionaries said that he had already read about most of the materials they were teaching in the lessons.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Specialized Training Meeting for Sisters

We drove to the mission office today.  Renee attended the specialized training meeting for the Sister Missionaries.  I attended a district meeting.  The meeting I attended was a bit rocky because the topic for discussion was obedience, and there have been some obedience issues with the Elders in the district.

Renee reported that the training for the Sister Missionaries was good.  My role was to pick up the food and help set up.  Then I took out the garage and visited with Elder Alexander in the office until the training meeting ended.

The Sister Missionaries of the Florida Tampa Mission.



Monday, April 11, 2016

Slow P-Day

We did our usual P-Day cleaning.  The only change is that Renee spot cleaned our carpet.  When we were done, I wanted to do something outside because it was a nice day.  So we drove to South Lido Park, a park on the south end of Lido Key.  This island is just offshore downtown Sarasota.  Lido Beach is one of the nice beaches that attracts a lot of locals.  We have been there several times.  The park is on the south end of the island.  We drove through the park, but this is the first time we got out and walked.  It isn't a spectacular park, so we did see one interesting bird, a Great Blue Heron.  It was standing between two fishermen, maybe hoping for a discarded fish.

Renee taking a picture of the Great Blue Heron in the background
 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Visit to Sarasota Ward

Today we visited the Sarasota Ward.  This is a strong ward, at least they have strong leadership.  We have four missionaries assigned to the ward.  I have been quite impressed by the bishop, Bp. Moll.  His wife grew up in the ward.  He has an internet business and could live anywhere.  She wanted to return to Sarasota where her parents lived, and they have remained here.

One of the interesting things they discussed at ward council is the creation of an online, shareable Google Docs spreadsheet which replicates the New and Returning Member Report.  This is a report that shows the status and progress of new and returning members.  The concept is to track the assignment of home and visiting teachers, callings, etc.  This is a great idea because it allows the ward council members to see how the members are doing.  The only disadvantage is the missionaries cannot access Google Docs from their iPads.  They have to use a computer to do it.  I mentioned this to Pres. Cusick, and he said they have been trying to get access to Google Docs for the missionaries.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

A Long Airport Trip

We left early in the morning, drove to pickup the missionary, and then drove to the Orlando Airport.  They wanted the missionary to leave from Orlando to have a direct flight.  We met another senior missionary at the airport who would be traveling with the missionary.

After returning to Sarasota, 6 hours round trip, we decided to visit some University Park Ward members that the bishop had asked us to meet.  We met one family who was not friendly and two families who were pleased that we came by.  We still have more members that the bishop would like us to visit.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Waiting Day

President Cusick called yesterday to see if we would be available to take a missionary to the airport today.  We said that we could.  He wasn't certain when we might need to go.  So we waited for him to call us today.  I finally checked with him, and he said it would not be until tomorrow.  We will be driving to the airport, leaving early in the morning.

So I had the oil changed in my car, and we did some grocery shopping.  Not much accomplished for the day as it turned out.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Home Work

We worked in our apartment today on some projects.  I was working on the administrative details for the upcoming Saints Unified Voices firesides.  Renee was contacting missionaries about the upcoming temple trip and finished up with the March section of the 2016 annual history.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

New Missionary Training

After a hopefully good night sleep, the new missionaries had training and met their trainees.  They had a short meeting for the new trainers.  I asked them who was more stressed -- they not knowing what their trainee would be like or the new missionaries not knowing what their trainer would be like.  They thought probably the new missionaries were more stressed.

After the training was completed, I helped Sis. Smith and her new missionary trainee, Sis. Greenberg, get some brochures they needed.  As I was carrying them to their car, they stopped to check with the office Elders about getting an oil change.  I set down the brochures, and then we all forgot about them.  So we ended up stopping at their apartment in Bradenton to deliver the brochures.  While there, I was able to fix a couple of problems in their apartment, so it turned out to be a beneficial stop.

When I was getting dressed this morning, I noticed a problem with my tie.  This is a tie that I wore quite a bit before coming on our mission.  The tie is now worn out.  I have never worn out a tie before.  This one is is frayed where the knot is tied.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Arriving Missionaries

We had seven new missionaries arrive today, 5 Sisters and 2 Elders.  Over the past year, President Cusick has reduced the amount of training on Tuesday evening.  I think he has learned that they are so tired from the travel that they don't retain anything.  I doubt that these newly arrived missionaries understand what big shoes they have to fill from the departing missionaries.  But somehow, the new missionaries turn into good missionaries themselves.

Last evening I visited with the desk clerk at the hotel and told her about the missionaries.  I talked with her again this evening and invited her to meet with the missionaries.  She said that she would like to, so I was able to get her email address for the missionaries to contact her.

Monday, April 4, 2016

P-Day and Departing Missionary Dinner

We did our apartment cleaning and then drove to the mission office and then to the mission home.  There are eight missionaries departing early tomorrow morning plus Elder and Sister Smith.  We have been able to associate with all of them, some very closely.  This is a really good group of missionaries.  They have done great work, and we are sad to see them leave.  And they were sad to be leaving.

Sisters Torres, Rydalch, Jahnel, Gibson, Smith, and Packer.  Pres. and Sis. Cusick, Elders Reamon, Morris, Ware, and Smith.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

General Conference

Again we watched the General Conference sessions.  We only had one of the sets of Elders join with us.  The others had been invited to watch with a recent convert which is preferable. As always, we appreciated and were strengthened by the conference talks.

When I made my weekly Sunday evening call to my father, he could not hear anything I said.  That made for a one-sided conversation.  He is slowly losing his eyesight and hearing, and that is frustrating for him.  I can understand why it would be.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

General Conference

We watched the General Conference sessions today.  We invited the four Elders who live close to us to watch at our apartment unless they had somewhere else to go.  We had two Elders for the morning session and all four for the afternoon and priesthood sessions.  Of course, Renee needed to feed them.  She continues to be surprised at how much they eat.

Elders Rees, Gardner, Casperson and Bowden and Renee singing during General Conference.

Friday, April 1, 2016

MLC Barbecue

The Mission Leadership Council was held at the mission home today.  This is the first time that we have met at the mission home, and I thought it went quite well.  We had the normal council on mission issues.  Then, we broke into two groups, zone leaders and sister training leaders, to discuss what their plans for the future are.  I think that President Cusick wanted to learn whether what they are doing on their missions is preparing them for the future.  I think it is, but some of the preparation is indirect.

We finished the meeting with barbecued hamburgers.  I think the missionaries enjoyed having an informal meeting at the mission home.  Hopefully we will be able to do that again.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Saints Unified Voices Meeting

I got my haircut today.  I enjoy talking wih the barber who I have been going to since we arrived.  His barbershop is the closes to our apartment, which is how I picked it.  He is a Muslim, so we talk about religion.  He says that those who perpertrate terrorist activities in the name of Islam don't read the same Koran that he does.

In the evening, we drove to the St. Petersburg Stake Center for a meeting about the Saints Unified Voices firesides coming up in May.  We didn't have much to contribute to the meeting as it was mostly about administrative details, such as who will order the water bottles.  Nevertheless, it was probably good that we attended so they know that the missionaries will be involved.