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


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


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.