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


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


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.