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


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


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


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.