Baton Rouge Louisiana Temple

Baton Rouge Louisiana Temple

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Service with a Smile

How fun was it to answer the doorbell this morning and see these two happy faces--Elders Watkins and Adkins.  They live in the building next to ours and had come to get the truck keys so they could scrape the windshield and warm the truck before we drove to the office! Talk about thoughtful. These are our 2 office elders and they're the best. They can do anything and everything, including making your life more comfortable. We're only about 3 blocks from the office so the truck doesn't even get warmed up before we arrive. But it was warm today! Very nice since it was 19 degrees when we left this morning.
I was actually by myself for about an hour today and managed to keep things under control without doing any damage. The 4 elders, 2 seniors and 2 young 'uns had gone to Gretna to move some elders from one apartment to another.  They're still not home and it's 7 pm. Gretna is about 1 1/2 hours away and a suburb of New Orleans, so they'll be worn out by the time they get home. Well, I'm sure the young elders will be fine, but the seniors will be ready to drop into bed.

Sister Olsen went home for lunch, so that left me in charge. :-) There was plenty to do as I was trying to get summaries for the new missionaries completed. Our next transfer is on March 5. We'll have 11 new missionaries arriving on March 4 and we make up summaries and index cards for each of them. By the time they arrive I'll feel like I already know them. I've seen their faces so many times and read a little about each of them. It's a great introduction for me. 

I also have a presentation to prepare for a training meeting the President is having for all the zone and district leaders next week.  We'll be doing a little instruction on properly filling out the form for baptism and confirmation. This is probably the most important form we have because it's what we use in the office to send to Salt Lake to be recorded on official church records. Better get it right!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Baton Rouge, the Ghost Town

Ok, maybe ghost town is a bit extreme, so how about semi-ghost town. I don't know about the rest of the South but Baton Rouge has been crippled by the cold. It's like nothing we've ever experienced before. It's not snow but freezing rain. When we drove to the office this morning some of the parking lots looked more like ice skating rinks. The steps and sidewalks are so slippery, and I'm just waiting for my first acrobatic maneuver down our 19 cement steps. The freeways are shut down as are many businesses, restaurants and stores. Trucks aren't able to get where they're going so no deliveries. We didn't get mail today and Sam's Club was even closed. We've actually benefitted from the light traffic. People just aren't out in their cars which makes it easy for us to get onto the main street by our apartment which is usually a nightmare.

Meanwhile, back at the office, it was almost business as usual. The missionaries were asked not to drive for the past 2 days which is playing havoc with the interview schedule. Pres. Wall usually goes to each zone then he interviews each of the missionaries at one of the church buildings. Since there's no driving he's come into the office and met with the elders and sisters who live close by. I know some of the sisters walked because we took 2 of them home at lunchtime.

We honestly have the best missionaries ever, and everyday just gets better as I get to meet and visit with them. They're polite, friendly, helpful, etc. etc. Y'all and yes ma'am are becoming 2 of my favorite words. And then there are the office elders. They'll bend over backwards for anything we need. They're great with the computer programs, office machines, problem solving and have taught me a ton.  Today I learned how to layer the map on so I can figure out ward, stake or mission boundaries. Brilliant! Now if I can just remember everything.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Getting to know the Missionaries

So far, for me, the best part of this mission is getting to know the people. Everyone has been wonderful, welcoming and kind. But since we're in the office, we have the most interaction with the missionaries, and I love them all! They're fun to talk to and brighten every day!

Today I visited with an Elder who will be returning home in 3 weeks. He is so darned cute and pleasant, but his testimony is powerful.  He was visiting with us in the office today while his companion was having his quarterly interview with the President and shared this story about his experience in 4H. When he was in sixth grade he bought his first piglet to raise and sell.  He fed, cleaned, watered and walked Wilbur (yes, he was named for Charlotte's Web) faithfully everyday, all summer long. Then it came time to take him to the county fair. He made it to the Star class but wasn't chosen grand or reserve champion. But Elder P was very excited and so proud of his pig. Then it came time to round the piggies up and take them to the auction. Elder P said he absolutely bawled when he had to part with Wilbur. Later that fall they had the 4H barbecue and gave out the checks for the the amount they'd been sold for. Wilbur earned Elder P $883. That changed his perspective on selling pigs, and for the next few years he named his pigs names like Cash, Greenback, etc!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Mondays are Meeting Days

Every Monday morning is the office meeting day with Pres. & Sister Wall. The office Elders, AP's and senior office couples attend. It gives us a chance to go over anything that need to be brought to the President's attention, clear calendar items, review the coming week, etc. And then, the tradition is to go out to lunch. Well twist my arm! Sounds like a good tradition to me. Lunch is really only for Pres & Sister Wall and the office couple (or couples for now.) I'm going to love this weekly get together with the Wall's because it gives us the opportunity to get to know them on a more personal level and not just in the mission forum. We'll be getting a new mission president in July and guess who'll be helping to train them! Yup! Us! I don't really know how much we'll work with them, but they don't really get much training at the MTC so we'll probably get to introduce them to the office activities.

Our office elders are a huge help and quite humorous. They even clean the bathrooms! Last week they folded the end of the toilet paper like you'd find in a hotel.  This is what we found today!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Missionary and the Frog

When Elder L was in the hall just prior to Stake Conference a young man, perhaps 14, came up to him, looked at his badge and asked who he was. They talked about us being missionaries. The young man said that his grandparents were serving in Samoa. They're in the mission office and responsible for "getting things to people." I'm thinking that means they take mail, supplies, etc. to missionaries who are serving on the island.  What we've noticed here is that the youth aren't afraid to engage in conversation with adults. It doesn't bother them to speak right up. I love that!

We don't know anything about Pres. Marks,1st Counselor in the Stake Presidency, but what a talk he gave. I was looking forward to hearing him speak because he conducted last night and was eloquent! What a spirit he has, and it is infectious. A few of his thoughts:
     He began with a quote from Martin Luther King but tweaked it a bit. "If a man hasn't discovered             something he will die for, he isn't fit to live." The change is that we must live and die for things that matter.
     We cannot serve God & mammon. Brigham Young said mammon is Satan's decoys. Ducks descend from a safe altitude to check out the decoy and doing so brings them into shotgun range. If we come "down" from a safe altitude we will also be in Satan's shotgun range.
     We need to make the best possible use of our time.
     When we put God first He can make much more out of us than we can make of ourselves.

We had several other speakers (a 15 year old girl who was baptized in July, a young man preparing to serve a mission, a young married woman, a returned missionary & a woman in her 50's who was baptized with her husband in 2007). Here are a few thoughts from them in no particular order:
     No one gives up on a sure thing.
     Endurance is an important principle.
     Make Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ most important in your lives.
     Drive is a good thing.  It pushes us to do better.
     We learn to love the people we serve.
     Members are crucial in "hastening the work."

A Mormon Missionary was crossing the road one day when a frog called out to him and said, "If you kiss me, I'll turn into a beautiful princess."  He bent over, picked up the frog and put it in his pocket. The frog spoke up again and said, "If you kiss me and turn me back into a beautiful princess, I will stay with you for one week." The missionary took the frog out of his pocket, smile at it and returned it to his pocket.  The frog then cried out, "If you kiss me and turn me back into a princess I'll stay with you for a month." Again the missionary took the frog out, smiled at it and put it back into his pocket. Finally the frog asked, "What is the matter with you? I've told you I'm a beautiful princess and that I'll stay with you for a month. Why won't you kiss me?" The missionary said, "Hey! I'm a Mormon missionary and we're not supposed to have girlfriends. But a talking frog? Now that's cool!"

Yes, I heard this joke at our Stake Conference this morning from Sister Wall.  How could I not share it or at least write it down so I wouldn't forget it. It led into her talk on "Doing Missionary Work is Cool!" Her main thought was from D&C 11:3 and finding joy in missionary work. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy." We find joy in working together and being unified with members and joy in miracles. They happen everyday in the mission field. They're not a rarity.

The more I hear Pres. Wall speak, the more I appreciate him and the love he has for his calling, his vision of missionary work, specifically, and his love for the gospel in general. I wish I could convey his words and spirit, but, sadly, I'm not capable of that. He talked about how important it is to answer the question "Why?" Why do we do things? Why something is important. Why should I do this or why should I do that? When we figure out the "why" then we'll know the "how."

When new missionaries come into this mission he has the opportunity to interview them and always asks why they're serving a mission. The answers are varied, but by the time they go home most of their reasons have changed and they usually include that they loved the people they served.  Why was Alma serving? In Alma 31:35 he tells us. "Behold, O Lord, their souls are precious, and many of them are our brethren; therefore, give unto us, O Lord, power and wisdom that we may bring these, our brethren, again unto thee." It all comes down to love. There are many whose souls are precious to us including our families and the missionaries in our mission. (Today's count is 186.) We want to be with them, and all of those we serve and love, forever.

Pres. Riggs, the Stake President, gave the closing remarks. He's a retired CES (Church Education System) seminary and institute teacher with a wealth of gospel knowledge and experience. In Alma 5:6, Alma uses the phrase "have you sufficiently retained in remembrance" three times. He suggested that we take a soul-searching inventory of ourselves and determine the things that we need to "sufficiently retain." Have we had a mighty change of heart? Have we been born of God? Are we truly converted? Pres. Riggs also reviewed the revised Membership Challenge which are basics to becoming more like the Savior:
     Daily personal prayer
     Daily family scripture study
     Participate in weekly Family Home Evening
     Make the Temple a priority: have a current recommend, participate in stake temple days, attend regularly
     Family History
     Help the missionaries teach/practice 20 lessons each week
     Strive for physical and spiritual excellence
     Am I a Christlike person?
     James 1:22 "Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

What an outstanding way to spend 2 hours. It was an exceptional morning.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

P Day!

I have a whole new appreciation for Preparation Day now that we're putting it into practice! Busy, busy, busy M-F then Saturday is our do everything else day. I had big plans for everything I was going to accomplish. The best laid plans, right? We made a quick trip to sams club this morning, came home & put groceries away then decided to take a little drive around BR. 

Our first stop was at LSU. I've been wanting to see the tiger since we arrived. I must say that LSU is a beautiful campus full of gorgeous, massive trees (I think magnolia & oak) & and alot of southern charm. Saturday was probably a good day to go because we could drive around the campus and there was no traffic. 
I love bell towers at every university.
So we were driving around the stadium looking for Mike, the tiger, but we hadn't found him. Elder L, aka dad, pulled over so I could ask 2 men where to find Mike. (I didn't ask for him by name because I didn't know his name.) A very friendly man came over to the car and said "Oh yeah. He's right over there and out walking around. You'll get a real good view of him."  Marc said "Thanks coach." I just figured he was one of dozens of coaches at LSU. The the man extended his hand inside the car to shake Marc's hand. As we drove away Marc said "that was Les Miles!" I'm so mad. I wanted to go back & take his picture but Marc didn't think it was appropriate to bother him. Darn! (Les Miles is the head football coach at LSU). Well, at least we got Mike's picture. 
Beautiful animal!

Next stop was downtown to see the old & new Capitol buildings. The new one was dedicated in 1932. It has 49 granite steps with the names of each state engraved in order of statehood. Alaska & Hawaii are on 1 step and were added after the Capitol was completed. It's also the tallest state capitol in the US--450' tall. (34 stories)
The old Capitol is my favorite.
It was actually built (in 1847) to look like and function as a castle. It's on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River and some believe that it was placed on the site that was once marked by a red pole, or "le baton rouge," which French explorers claimed designated a Native American council meeting site. 
End of today's history lesson. 

We had stake conference tonight, and I'm never disappointed with the Saturday evening session. It was outstanding. I'm thinking that many others stakes are having the same format--inviting the youth to this session. The theme was "Hastening the work of Salvation." All of the talks were inspiring. The youth were every bit as powerful as the adults.  Pres. Riggs, the stake pres, made an analogy between a line from "Fiddler on the Roof" and a prophecy about the South regarding the growth of the Church. The Fiddler line was something like "Great things are going to happen in this country and can't happen by itself." The comparison is obviously that great things are going to happen in the South, also, and those things won't happen without the help from all of us. Now I need to find the Fiddler quote and the prophecy. 

As I wrap up the day and look back on my accomplishments I can honestly say that my productivity is lacking, but the cleaning will wait. At least we have clean sheets, clean clothes and food for the week!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Snow in Baton Rouge?

Snow? Well, sort of! We woke up to some flakes of white. 

You couldn't exactly call this real snow if you live in Utah, but it has absolutely turned Baton Rouge upside down!  Both bridges across the Mississippi River have been closed all day. Not actually because of snow but due to the low temperatures. Things have frozen and become extremely icy so traffic is a nightmare.  It took the local Elders 1 1/2 hours to get to their district meeting at the stake center. It's less than 5 miles from here! Can I say how very happy I am that we live about 2 blocks from the office!

I am completely flabbergasted by the enormity of what goes on in this mission and the church throughout the world. And it's all at my fingertips in our little office. How did everything get accomplished without computers? The amount of work we were able to complete today would've take days in my pre-computer world from years gone by. Wow! Welcome to reality. 
Sister Olsen continues to be an absolute treasure! Nothing ruffles her, and everything is taken in stride. 

We received several referrals in the past week and needed to get them to the missionaries in the correct areas. How? Pull up the "meetinghouse locator" on, type in the address (if you have it), get the closest ward or branch name, find the missionaries serving in that area, then send referral to their phone. If the addresses are out of our mission boundaries we can easily send it to the appropriate mission. No problem! All of this is done using 2 computer screens. What an advantage it is to have 2 screens. Very little minimizing and maximizing to be done. 

We also updated all the changes from the recent transfers. Pres. Wall does most of the work, but it still needed some corrections, additions, editing, copying, etc. Can I just say how much I love the printer and copy machine we have that does double side printing without me having to stand on my head, roll over and figure out how on earth to put the paper in after the first side is finished. 

My appreciation for Mission Presidents is growing by leaps and bounds! When our friends presided over a mission in the Dominican Republic I knew they were busy, but busy doesn't even describe it. I'm thinking more like 3 years without sleep! So, to past Pres. Johns, Pres. Wall, Pres. Hart, Pres. Erickson and every other MP in the world, my gratitude and eternal thanks to you for your tireless efforts and untold hours of work, love and dedication you give to these precious missionaries throughout the world. Talk about shepherding and following the Savior's example! These men and their wives are at the top of my list. I don't know personally about other presidents, but I understand that Pres. Wall doesn't need a roster. It's all in his head--every elder and sister, who they serve with and where. That's very impressive. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Letters, orders and reports

Another busy day learning how to run a mission office. Sister Olsen is extremely patient with every project that needs to be completed. I'm sure it would take her half the time to do twice as much, but she never seems to mind. Lucky me!

Our first task was to send letters to all the parents of the new trainers. Each of the new missionaries has been paired with someone who can teach and mentor them from day one. Pres Wall feels that this is an important enough assignment that the trainers' parents should be notified of the responsibilities and trust their children have been given. I know 12 letters doesn't sound like a big deal but it requires more than just cranking out letters. So much has to be checked and personalized. You have to go into the missionary's profile and know the parents' status including whether or not they're members, if they're divorced (that requires 2 letters), deceased, different surname, etc.  You also need to update the trainer's profile to indicate his/her position for this particular transfer. Enough said on that subject. 

We also did a lot of ordering of supplies from church distribution and local companies for business & office supplies which required inventorying our stock. After transfers is a good time to restock because many missionaries come into the office for books, pamphlets, pass along cards, etc. Just since last week we've been through about 14!cases of Book of Mormons--40 books per case and we've ordered 15 more cases!

I'm going to say that probably the most important thing we did today was to input the baptism and confirmation information and send it to Salt Lake for the official records of the church. You want to be sure that it's perfect, or as perfect as it can be from your side. Again, it doesn't sound like it should be too time consuming, but there are far more steps than I would've imagined. It also goes on the Stake Presidents' reports, a mission report, and about 3 other locations. 

We kept very occupied all day. My apologies to any of you that I should be texting tonight, but after going grocery shopping I'm ready to drop into bed! Maybe I'll have time tomorrow evening but it certainly won't happen during the day. Thanks for understanding.  

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Transfers and Temple Day

Another great day and what a whirlwind!  We started the morning at the Mission Home where the 12 new missionaries received some training.

How's this for a really cute Mission Home? Kind of looks familiar!

Then it was back to the office for an hour of work before running to Subway for 17 platters of sandwiches to feed all the missionaries who come to the transfer meeting. It was huge this time and involved about 110 Elders & Sisters--some incoming from the MTC, some going home, but most of them changing locations & companions.

That was such a fun meeting! Everyone seemed excited to see who they'd be serving with next & the "go homes" were able to share their testimonies and advice they'd gleaned from their missions. 

I can't possibly write down everything but here are a few thoughts:
I was given strength to do hard things. 
How to do missionary work--first we love, then we serve, then we teach. 
"What we love determines what we seek. What we seek determines what we think & do. What we think & do determines who we are & who we will become." Quoted from Pres Uchtdorf. 
Focus on learning how to love Heavenly Father with all your heart, might mind & strength. 
Don't be too hard in yourself. 
Learn that consecrating yourself will move the work forward so consecrate yourself to your mission. 
Favorite scripture: Philippians 4:13 "I can do all thing through Christ which strengtheneth me."
Create mission memories. 
Don't compare yourself to others. 
Learn that you've learned something. 
Learn to open your mouth and testify of true principles. 

Words of wisdom from the mouths of babes!

Back to the office to send emails to parents of new arrivals to let them know their missionaries arrived safely and to give them their addresses. 

The final activity for the day was to attend a temple session with all the "go homes," Pres & Sister Wall and the 4 other senior couples. I'm not sure his a day can get any better than this one!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Office Couple in Training


Can you tell I'm elated over our new assignment?  I feel so useful!  There will be plenty go learn but I'm hoping that our training time will give us the skills we'll need. And I know that I can always call Sister Olsen with any question. She was so helpful today. As soon as we arrived this morning she had me at the desk doing what needed to be done. I did it all with her guiding me every step of the way. Great way to learn. 

Tomorrow is transfer day. It's probably the busiest day we have every 6 weeks. We had 12 new missionaries arrive today--4 Elders & 8 Sisters. They'll stay at the Mission Home (Pres & Sister Wall's residence) tonight, then tomorrow there's training at the home then they go to the stake center to meet their new companions. Also the other missionaries who'll have changes in their companionships will be in attendance. This is followed by lunch and then they're off to their areas of assignment. Should be an exciting process to be a part of. 

You don't realize, until you're behind the scenes, how much goes on just getting missionaries into the field, home from the field or going from area to area while they're serving. One of our projects today was letters for missionaries who'll be released next month--letters of release to each Stake President, Bishop, parents, travel itineraries, Certificate of Release, etc. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Good-bye Marksville, Hello Baton Rouge

We're pretty sad to be leaving Marksville. Only here 2 weeks & we already love it. With any luck we might get back--at least for a visit.

We actually quite enjoyed our place. But it's history now. 
Today's agenda:
Pack up
With the help of 4 Elders, load everything including furniture, dishes, pots & pans, washer & dryer (we were upstairs)
Drive 2 hours to Baton Rouge 
Unload everything (upstairs again)
Good night!!!

These are our 2 Marksville Elders--Ware & Steele. Wonderful, dedicated missionaries and hard workers. 

Longridge Apartments

Saturday, January 18, 2014

MTC Reflections

These are some notes I was reviewing from the MTC. Brother & Sister Hawkes spoke to our district about their missions & some of the things they'd learned. They didn't exactly preside over the Indonesia Mission but were there for 3 years preparing the area and making friends for the church. After he retired they served 2 other missions. He was a doctor & they lived in the Bay Area for over 40 years. They knew Mom & many of the Laupers. Here are a few things I gleaned from their outstanding presentation.

Don't just fulfill your calling. Find other things to do to fill extra hours:
•Get to know & love the members. Be a friend to them. 
•Look for service projects you can work together on with members
•Gain the respect of local leadership
•Use the handbook 
•When they love & trust you they'll accept your counsel
•They'll need simple teaching techniques
•Magnify your calling
•Be involved in helping young missionaries 
•Accept extra assignments
•Support EVERY baptism

Think outside the box:
•Make friends everywhere you go
•Get involved with those around you
•Get them to teach you their ways
•Appreciate local attractions
•Go with new friends to see & do things
•Always look for the good 

What are your resources & skills?
Are there needs I can fulfill?
Do I have talents/skills to share?
Get involved in the community
Look for ways to interact with others
•Introduce yourself
•Small acts of service
•Neighborhood get togethers
•Community events 
•Chldren's activities
•Service with other churches or organizations
•Health improvement or a health club
•Volunteer at schools
•Become a resident. Mentally move there
•Make it your home
•Use resources to fulfill your purposes 
•Keep in touch with people after returning home
•Read promises in your mission call

This is painted on a building in Marksville. 
Unfortunately it isn't going to show up the way I'd hoped, but it says:"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects that which never was and never will be." Thomas Jefferson 

What I love about this, in addition to the quote itself, is that it depicts, in small ways, much of this area--especially the cypress trees, water & little wooden boats. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

A Taste of LA

This is a very clean state! We haven't seen graffiti or trash anywhere. 
All the grass/weeds are trimmed including along the roadsides. We think that might be for chigger control. The roadsides are maintained by Department of Corrections "residents."
There's definitely still some segregation going on here in Marksville--especially in churches & cemeteries.   
Crawfish have a season from February through August. 
Lawyers (and churches) are plentiful! Marc says 2 lawyers can make a good living in a town that wouldn't support 1 because they make work for each other. That must the the case here. (This could be a quote from Ben Franklin)
We aren't the only ones who bless our food in public. 
It's okay to post the 10 commandments or other scriptures in public establishments. 
Natchidoches is pronounced Na-ka-tish. If you pronounced it like it looks they'll know you're a Yankee!
We haven't seen any screen doors yet. 
LA is the only state with parishes not counties. 
Something you wouldn't want to find when you want to get into your boat. These guys live in a fake swamp at the local casino. 
Spring Bayou (a slow moving river). I'll bet this place is gorgeous & profuse with color 9 months of the year. 
I still don't know north from south. We I've learned is we pass McDonalds to go to church (North) and Walmart to go to Baton Rouge (south). 

We tried a new restaurant tonight--The Red River Grill.  Delicious! It was more dining than eating out & what I was hoping to find here in the South. My newest adventure is soft shell crab. Great choice. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

4-Zone Conference

Having never attended a zone conference I didn't know what to expect. What a spiritual feast & pleasant introduction to what will be a regular part of our lives for the next 18 months. The center of the chapel was filled with young missionaries, beautiful & handsome, clean cut & well groomed, dedicating 18-24 months of their lives in full time service to The Lord and sharing the message of the gospel of Christ.

The reason there were 4 zones attending was because Elder Perkins, a member of the First Quorum of Seventy, is here with his wife from Salt Lake. He'll meet with the other zones tomorrow in New Orleans. Briefly, he served a mission in Taiwan as a young man. After receiving a variety of degrees he worked for a management firm that sent him to Beijing, where his family lived for 8 years. He was later called to preside over the Taiwan Taipei Mission. Since then he's been a General Authority. 

One thing he talked about was how missionaries receive their calls--a similar message to Elder Rasband's talk in the Priesthood session of General Conference a few years ago. His experience was similar, working with Elder Hales, a member of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles. There's no time to read the background information. They needed to assign 300 missionaries in 4 hours. No surprise that this particular responsibility is the most time consuming for the Quorum of the 12.  The missionary's picture, ward & stake appear on a computer screen and, through inspiration & revelation, the assignment is made. 

I could continue writing for another hour or two but will just try to give a brief synopsis of a very spiritually uplifting day. 

Sister Wall's message was about finding joy in the mission field. Don't wait for the "good" times but look for the good in all situations. This is a time of consecration, obedience, growth & tender mercies. "Tender mercies are like a hug from heaven."  

The missionaries were asked to each prepare a 3-5 minute talk on commitments and covenants. 4 were chosen to present them. The main idea was that commitments lead to conversion through repentance which takes us to covenant making--baptism & confirmation, then, later, temple covenants. 

Pres Wall's talk was inspiring, explaining that it's difficult to overcome obstacles without having a vision of what could be. We were asked to ask ourselves "What is my vision as a missionary?"

Sister Perkins spoke about successful missionaries. She used Preach My Gospel pg 31 as the basis for her remarks--"Learn, Live & Love" and ways to do each. 

Elder Perkins next presentation was on who you are, what you teach & how do we work. Without all the visuals this won't make much sense so I'll leave it at that. 

We spent some time doing a variety of role playing and evaluating the results followed by a testimony meeting. 

That's an extremely short summary on a power packed 8 hour day that I'm anxious to do again!

The good sisters in a local ward fed us a delicious lunch, but the recipe I just had to have follows:

Pecan Praline Sauce (Yum!!!)
1 1/2 C dark Karo syrup
1 1/2 C light Karo syrup
1 1/2 C chopped, toasted pecans
1 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg
1 t vanilla
Stir together & that's it! It'll keep a few weeks in the fridge but is best served at room temperature. 

We cross over The Mighty Mississippi River every time we go to Baton Rouge. Tonight we went over the John James Audubon Bridge at sunset.
Quite a sight to behold. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Louisiana Baton Rouge Mission Office

Busy day today! Since we have a multi zone conference tomorrow morning we decided to pack some of our bulkier items and bring them to Baton Rouge to spend the night. We left our things in a spare bedroom of the apartment where we will

eventually be living. (In 6 weeks--after the Olsens go home) for now we'll stay in a smaller apt in the same complex. 

Elder Perkins from the Seventy will be here for our zone conference. We're not really sure what to expect but know it'll be all day. I'm sure it'll be inspiring & informative. 

For a few hours this afternoon I worked with Sister Olsen. She was doing what she calls "commissary." Prior go zone conferences or transfers the missionaries can send in requests for items they need that are stocked at the mission office. They range from copies of the Book of Mormon (in a variety if languages), Bibles, pass along cards, church DVDs, to cleaning supplies (giving the missionaries no excuses for keeping their apartments clean!)

Sister Olsen was giving me an overview of what she does, and I'm feeling slot less stressed about most of it. I do glad that we'll have the next 6 weeks to learn what we can. I'm feeling worse for Marc who will be responsible for all the mission finances. And that's just one of his jobs. We do have 2 office elders who are the nicest guys ever and bend over backwards to help. They're very knowledgeable about the office and dulling to do anything & everything. I hope they don't get transferred any time soon! 

This is very common sign between Marksville & Baton Rouge. At first I thought it was just a nice notice in case you wanted to attend church. Not so! If I'd paid attention to the shape & color I'd have known that it's a warning sign to drivers of the possibility of pedestrians and particularly children. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Alexandria District Meeting

We were just settling in to life in Marksville and picking up elders Steele & Ware for a district meeting in Alexandria when  Marc received a call from Pres Wall.  Apparently the missionary office in Salt Lake City notified him that they wouldn't be getting a senior couple to take the Olsens place when they go home in March. We've been asked to take over the office duties and will be moving next week!  It sounds like we'll be training for about 2 months to learn the secretarial, financial, housing, transportation, & I'm not sure what else. It's a bit overwhelming to think of the responsibilities we'll have and things we'll need to learn.

Back to the district meeting. Besides Marc & me there are 4 sets of missionaries in our district--2 Spanish speaking elders, 2 sisters, our Marksville elders & 2 elders in Alexandria.

They're all focused and humble and dedicated to their work. It's wonderful to listen to them talk about their concerns & love for the people they work with. They're mature beyond their years. At least 2 of them graduated 2 weeks before they came on their missions, but they know why they're here and how to conduct meetings, how to study & apply what they've learned. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

A Warm Southern Welcome

We've been looking forward to going to church and meeting some of the branch members. Quality, not quantity would perfectly describe them. The counselor who conducted Sacrament Meeting said he counted 23 including children. I thought there were a few more. No matter. We received such a genuinely warm welcome from everyone we met. Considering the fact that almost all are first or second generation members they have strong testimonies and a great depth of understanding. Seems like they've had the gospel in their lives forever. (Actually they have but didn't know it.) I'm sure I'll learn far more from them than they'll ever learn from me.
This is a testimony to me that somewhere they knew those truths before and now they're being recalled to mind. 

The elders came to dinner this evening. Good thing they came at 5 because when we got home from church I'd forgotten to plug in the crock pot. Please note: a 4 lb chuck roast can be cooked on hi in 4 1/2 hours!

On the lighter side--observations on how you know y'all are in a small branch:
1. You meet everyone in the branch twice  --once on the way in & again on the way out. 
2. There's no place for a box of Kleenex on the portable podium. 
3. The piano is a Yamaha keyboard. 
4. All the hymn books are brand new because the branch was recently reopened. 
5. The Sacrament is prepared before you finish the first verse of a 2 line hymn. 
6. The same sister conducts, leads, prays & teaches the lesson in Relief Society. 
7.  You don't have to use the church restrooms because you're only there for 2 hours instead of 3. 
8. Everyone loves you the minute you walk in the door. They act like you've been best friends forever. 
9. You pray that you'll get to spend your entire mission in that incredible little branch!!!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Lovin' Louisiana!

I'm completely intrigued with the cemeteries here. The first time I saw graves above ground was in the Dominican Republic.  Because the water table is high the ground is too wet to dig a 6 foot hole & actually have a casket remain underground! Eventually it would work its way out of the soil. One good storm and who knows where gramps would land. Ok. Maybe that's exaggerating, but it really could end up above ground instead of below. Just ask our friend, The Falcon, about heavy storms & displaced coffins!
Our Marksville elders dropped by today and were another answer to prayer. Even though we have no internet service yet, I really needed access to word documents. I thought all the cords were correctly connected but the monitor just kept wanting to go to sleep. (Proof that it's really my monitor!) Elder Steele have the problem solved in no time. I'd attached one cord too many that went nowhere. Enough said.

We ran over to the branch today to pick up a list of the members and met Sister Plauche. I love our Branch Pres and his wife, or as they say down here, Miss Claire. Such good & humble people who are honestly thrilled to have us here. What a fantastic place to be for the next 18 months. I know we'll have opportunities here that we'd never have dreamed of in California or Utah. As Annie says: "I think I'm gonna like it here!" 
Yes, this is our triple wide meeting house. 

Like I've said before  lovin' Louisiana!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Meeting the Branch President

Once upon a time, about 12 years ago, a young girl with an atheist mom and catholic dad, invited the missionaries in to hear their message. Her dad kicked them out of the house, but she persisted and eventually joined the church. Later, but I'm not sure how much later, her mom was baptized. Mom is now the seminary teacher & 4 years later the young girl converted Neal, who is now the Branch President in Marksville, where we are now serving.

President Plauche & 3 of his children stopped by out apartment this afternoon. What a sweet young man, bordering on child!  I'm sure he's younger than our Bishop in Cedar who's about 41. The BP has only been a member of the church for about 8 years. 

I'm pretty sure this kind of story will be very typical of the wonderful people here in Louisiana. Pres Plauche told us a little about the branch with 20-30 average  attendance. There are approximately 130 members on the records so we'll start making some visits & see if we can locate  any of them. He also invited us to speak this Sunday and introduce ourselves. 

An interesting note about our branch--they meet for 2 hours. The first hour is Sacrament Meeting & the second hour is auxiliaries. They don't have enough people to staff auxiliaries. If they tried there'd be all teachers and no class members. 

Unfortunately I forgot about taking a picture--again!! Grrr! This blog is going to become quite boring if I don't get my photography act together. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Meeting Pres & Sister Wall

Finally. Something at McDonald's that I like. Grits on the dollar menu!
I spent the morning cleaning & lining shelves, washing dishes and getting the rest of our things put away. 

This afternoon we went back to Baton Rouge to meet the mission president. We went first to the office and met the office elders & the Olsens (a senior couple who do the housing, secretarial, cars, etc)
Next stop--the mission home. It looks so much like cottonwood but on a much larger scale.  After a nice visit we went to dinner with the Walls & Olsens. I was completely surprised when Pres Wall pulled into Olive Garden! I was sure we'd do something southern. 

The Walls & Olsens are such good people and we had a pleasant evening visiting & getting to know them. Just a bit of info. Pres Wall was the publisher at Deseret News before retiring & coming on this mission. Their 3 years will end in June so we'll be getting a new president around July 1. Sadly we got so caught up in conversation that I forgot all about taking pictures. 

One thing Pres Wall said was to remember 2 words--rescue & hope. Rescue in heeding Pres Monson's admonition to search for those who're less active and hope for those who aren't able to come to church so we bring the message of the gospel to them. Apparently there are about 330,000 less actives in the southern states and another 150,000 who've moved or "lost" from church records. That's almost 1/2 million people! Looks like there's plenty of work to be done here. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Last Good-bye :(

After breakfast and a quick trip to Costco in Baton Rouge we had to say good-bye to Danielle & Kimberlee. We needed to return to our new home to unpack & the girls were seeing the sights then heading for New Orleans. That was not fun!

We've discovered that we actually live in Marksville but our mailing address is Mansura. Anyway, the drive home was slightly quieter, but the scenery was lovely. There are many green fields and trees so it's less brown than Utah. The homes vary from shacks to single or double wides to brick, big & beautiful. Once you leave Baton Rouge it becomes very rural. Most of the time we didn't know where we were because there are very few "Welcome to..." signs. 

We did find the church and were pleasantly surprised to find that it's not a house but a triple wide!  It sits on a good sized lot so perhaps there'll be a real building there someday. I'll take pics on Sunday. 

Tomorrow afternoon we'll return to Baton Rouge to meet President & Sister Wall, our mission president & his wife. We haven't figured out a fast way from Marksville to Baton Rouge yet. We're hoping Pres Wall will have some suggestions. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Road to Louisiana Day 4

As we drove the remaining miles through Texas the scenery began to change until the trees became so dense that it reminded me of Maryland. But the biggest excitement came when we entered Louisiana!
We stopped at the beautiful information center and felt very welcome. It had some real southern charm. Also, I learned a bit about the state bird, the brown pelican, and have much more appreciation for a strange looking bird with protective parental instincts. Rather than letting their young starve pelicans will tear at their own fled to feed them. 
We met up with the Elders in Alexandria, and they escorted us right to our apartment in Mansura. Home sweet home!  The elders stayed long enough to help us move all our belongings from the truck to the 2nd floor.  
I almost don't care that the apt has 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms or 2 huge walk in closets. It has a washer & dryer and I'm on cloud 9. I thought for sure I'd be going to a laundromat for the next 18 months!  Oh happy, happy day!
After unloading we headed to Baton Rouge to spend our last night with the girls. We barely arrived in time to pick up their rental car then we checked into a quaint hotel, had dinner, saw the Baton Rouge temple and found the mission office. Now we're all ready to hit the pillows.

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Road to Louisiana Day 3

How can you not love Texas? Check out this Belgian waffle at the Residence Inn.

Very delicious with mini chocolate chips or blueberries. 
Lots of open space and forsaken little towns. We were all surprised that Texas was so cold. I'm not sure it ever went above freezing. Lots of flat, open land and other than cotton I have no clue what grows here. These bales are ready for the gin. 
Pretty funny experience in Dallas today. Tia really wanted to see the Cowboys' stadium so we pulled the directions up on 3 phones. It was about 8 miles from the hotel--plenty of time to get there, have dinner and get back for the championship football game, right? From the map this place is a very large piece of land. When we arrive it's a huge high school football stadium! 
They're very serious about their football in Texas!  Now we're a good 20 miles from the AT&T stadium. The quest is on. Eventually we found it and, much to our surprise, there's nothing on the stadium itself that even says Cowboy. 
The only thing I saw was a Tom Landry statue and stuff in the pro shop. 
I used to be a Cowboy fan, probably because Pappy was the best Cowboy fan ever, but since he passed away it's not as fun to cheer for them by myself. I'm going to change my allegiance to the New Orleans Saints! 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Road to Louisiana Day 2

The purpose of this blog is not to be a travelogue, but when you're spending hours in a car & covering hundreds of miles a day there's a lot more going on than missionary work & spiritual experiences. So for now it's a travelogue.

First stop--New Mexico Welcome Center

The New Mexico flag--Land of Enchantment isn't on the actual flag but is the state motto. We loved learning about the flag. The yellow field & red symbol are the colors of Spain. There are 4 groups of rays with 4 rays in each group. This is an ancient sun symbol of a Native American people called Zia. The Zia believed that the giver of all good gave them gifts in groups of 4.    

4 directions--north, south, east, west                                                             4 seasons--summer, fall, winter, spring                                                      
The day--sunrise, noon, evening, night                                                        
Life itself--childhood, youth, middle years, old age.
All of these are bound by a circle of life & love without a beginning or end. 

End of today's philosophy. Marc wanted a picture with an outlaw who's story has always fascinated him--William Bonney or Wm McCarty aka Billy the Kid. It's believed that this pic of billy is the only authentic one. Billy carried this 2x3 tintype. When he died his friend took it & passed it down through his family. It was sold in 2011 for $2.3 mil--7th most expensive picture ever sold. 
Only in NM. I love it!

          We made it to Amarillo Texas!

The Road to Louisiana Day 1

Busy travel day filled with more tears, fun and laughter!  We left our room at 4:30 am to take a shuttle to the airport for an 8:22 flight. Hm!! Kimberlee, Jaie, Calli & Danielle met us at the airport & transported us to the house where we gathered some last minute things, finished packing and were on our way. Danielle & Kimberlee are "chauffeuring" us to LA!

Kimberlee (also will be referred to as Tia) is determined that none of us will experience deep vein thrombosis so she makes sure that we walk regularly. After a beautiful drive through the Cedar mountains & Kanab we arrived at the Glen Canyon Dam & walked across the bridge over Lake Powell.
Next stop--The Grand Canyon! The sun was going down but we got the breathtaking view of the South Rim & literally ran up Watchman's Tower as it was already past closing time.
View from Watchman's Tower
Flagstaff, Winslow, Holbrook, bedtime!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Day 5 MTC

This week began in tears and will end in tears but for 2 very different reasons! I can't even begin to express my feelings for the remarkable week we have spent here. We push ourselves every day in classes trying to learn how to be effective missionaries. We've loved our instructors & classes but they've been challenging as we role play & try to put ourselves in the shoes of members & non-members. The more we work, the more we learn, and the more we learn about what we need to learn. Did that make any sense at all.

Today we had two senior couples share experiences & talk to us about their experiences and also worked with us on finding ways to help without taking over.  

When I'm at the computer and not the phone I'll be adding some of my notes from these classes--not because anyone wants to read them but because this will be my journal for the next 18 months.

Our assignment will be as member-leader support (MLS). We've been assigned to a small branch in Marksville which is about 1 1/2 hours north west of Baton Rouge. We think our responsibilities will include working with the young elders and investigators, visiting less active members & probably doing our share of speaking & teaching. But until we meet with our mission president on Jan. 9 we won't know for sure. 

This evening we had the opportunity to attend the Sacred Gifts exhibit at the BYU Museum of Art. They have some Carl Bloch, Heinrich Hofmann & Frans Schwartz paintings on display. Some of the Bloch paintings have never left Denmark and will never leave again. So this was probably a once in a lifetime opportunity unless I happen to find myself in Denmark, which is highly unlikely! 
This is one of the paintings on display. "The Sermon on the Mount"

Happy Day!  Our summer daughter and Heidi's roommate from BYU days, Tori Morrison, came to attend the exhibit and bid us farewell. We don't get to see her very often so it was a wonderful time. Love this girl forever!
Now it's off to bed as we leave tomorrow at 4:30 am. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Day 4 MTC

love it here more and more every day. It's just so sad that we have to leave some very special friends. 
This is our wonderful, delightful & enjoyable MTC district. From left to right they're serving in France, Philadelphia, Baton Rouge and Mazatlan. 

We've been doing a lot of role play which us challenging but is showing me what areas I need to work on, but we've received some nice evaluations. A pat on the back is always well received. 

This picture is Elder Pike. He's been the most delightful, humble, powerful teacher. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think he's a large version of Bronson.

We had a newly hired teacher observing our class today. She returned from her mission in Russia in October. We had a few minutes during the break and I found out she's a sign language major. She'd studied it before her mission & thought she'd be called on an ASL mission so was surprised to receive a call to Russia. In her first area there were 20 deaf members so she learned Russian sign language. No, it isn't the same as ASL. Now she speaks & signs Russian & ASL. The first person she taught and baptized was deaf. No coincidences!

We decided to do the laundry today. This is half of the facility!
Now that's a laundry room!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Day 3 MTC

Happy New Year!  Is it really New Year's Day? You'd never know it at the MTC. Business as usual. Tons of new missionaries arrived, as always, on Wednesday.  They're so young and some had that "deer in the headlights" fear in their eyes. Somehow the Rose Parade made it down Colorado Boulevard without me watching, or even thinking, about it and the Bowl Games were all played without Marc and his running commentaries.

What an amazing and wonderful experience this has been. Every day is filled with new challenges, outstanding teaching and delightful people. We've loved our classes but the "teaching appointments" are a hurdle I've yet to conquer. Funny how you can know something for decades but when it comes time to teach it to "investigators" everything goes blank. That's when I nudge Marc to take over. 

The couples here have been so enjoyable to get to know. One is from San Luis Obispo. The wife grew up in Pico Rivera and knew the Chitwoods (Ginny burningham) and the Carlsons (Glen C and Sue Gardner).  Another has a son & daughter-in-law in Danielle's ward. They're actually related by marriage to Ashlyn's family, for those of you who know that story. Their daughter-in-law and Ashlyn's mom are sisters. It really is a very small world. 

Now it's companion study time in "Preach My Gospel". I should manage to get about an hour in before dropping into bed. Yes, that will be 8 pm!