Baton Rouge Louisiana Temple

Baton Rouge Louisiana Temple

Friday, February 28, 2014

Happy, Happy, Happy!!!

Oh gosh!  How much do I love these missionaries?  They are SO fun, enjoyable, wonderful & every other positive attribute you can think of. They help fill the "I'm missing my family" gap.

This is Elder Bushman--one of our visa waiters. He's leaving for Brazil on Monday and was in the office today with his companion, Elder Morrow, who was packing his bike to send home. (He'll be released next Thursday.)  Back to Elder B. He's from St. Louis and his mom called 2 days ago because she wanted to send the last package before he leaves US soil because nothing will ever get to him in Brazil. (I really should quit complaining about the US mail.  At least it gets to us--usually.) Mom wasn't sure if it should go to his apartment or the office. The office is probably the better choice. So the package arrived while Elder B was here, and, of course, he opened it. Mom had sent some special St. Louis cake that was truly the best cake ever.  Maybe that's because it has 3 packages of cream cheese in the batter!  Dear Elder B was kind enough to share it with some of us.  Well, I felt it was only right that I should let Mom know that the box arrived safely. So I emailed her and just happened to mention that her son is wonderful and I'd love the recipe if it wasn't a family secret.  I haven't heard back from her but am keeping my fingers crossed.  Elder B has been pretty quiet the other 2 times we've met which might be because he's so new. He arrived from the MTC last transfer.  But he really opened up today, and it was fun to see his personality come out.  

Elder Fontenot popped into the office today and brought this beautiful 12 lb smoked ham to Marc. He'd been to a friend's "place" to pick up 120 lbs of pork sausage to bar-b-q for the YW fundraiser--selling sausage po' boys. Elders F and L have been talking about this good friend of Elder F who has a "place" where he prepares meats.  I thing that includes slaughtering and smoking, so if you're "this little piggy," y'all best stay home, have roast beef, have none, or you may be someone's dinner.  It's really disconcerting to know that "this little piggy" was running around someone's yard very recently. I'm having a hard time reconciling the fact that he's not in a shrink-wrapped package from Costco!  If we're going to live here till mid 2015 we'd better get with the program.  If Elder F has his way, before we go home we'll be eating squirrel, frog and racoon, but not 'possum.  Elder F doesn't like the taste of 'possum. Oh, thank goodness!  I'm sure that one would've done me in!  (I just re-read this paragraph. It's full of grammatical errors & should get a D+ for understandability, but it'll stand as written.)

I'd like to just say, again, that I LOVE THIS MISSION!  There's nothing about it that gets me down. Even during our busiest times, it's the best.  All the Elders and Sisters who come into the office seem to feel comfortable and at home.  I'm sure that has a lot to do with Sister Olsen and her welcoming spirit. I'll be sorry for her to leave next week because we've developed a very pleasant friendship.  When I think of her I'm reminded of "For Good" from the musical "Wicked." Glinda and Elphaba say good-bye and acknowledge that who they are is because they knew each other. Not all of the words apply, but I love a few lines. 

     (Glinda) I've heard it said that people come into our lives for a reason,
     Bringing something we must learn and we are led
     To those who help us most to grow if we let them,
     And we help them in return. Well I don't know if I believe that's true,
     But I know I'm who I am today because I knew you...
     (Elphaba) It well may be that we will never meet again in this lifetime...
     You'll be with me like a handprint on my heart...

I just want to say that the most important things I've learned from Sister Olsen aren't all office skills! And our paths will cross again!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The AP's

Meet the Assistants to the President, Elder Asuao (from American Samoa) and Elder Helie (from American Fork, Utah).  They are two sweethearts and great missionaries.  I could probably say that about every elder and sister in LABRM but I haven't met them all.  I'm working on it.

They were in the office today and Elder Asuao mentioned that he'd lost his journal.  The last time he knew where it was, was at the mission home.  Sister Garcia, a Temple Square sister who went back to Temple Square last week, was writing in it before she left the mission home.  Sister Wall found it after Sister Garcia left and thought it belonged to Sister G. So Sister Wall brought it into the office when we had our Monday meeting and asked me to mail it to Temple Square.  No problem.  I got it right into the mail.  It never crossed anyone's mind to make sure it belonged to Sister G.  At least none of us are snoops!  As soon as we figured out what happened I called the Temple Square Mission Office and enlisted their help.  It probably hasn't arrived yet, but I'm sure that Sister G will get a good laugh out of it when it does.  Then Temple Square will ship it back to LA.

Just a few notes on today's activities.  We're getting ready for transfers as I already mentioned, and with that comes the big commissary orders for the whole mission.  We're packing up cases of copies of the Book of Mormon (both English and Spanish), area books, and pass along cards, pamphlets, DVDs and DVD players, light bulbs, household items and cleaning supplies, etc. etc.  What did I learn today? Don't wear a white blouse when you're doing commissary!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Elder Fontenot--A True Cajun Southerner

Woke up this morning looking like a porcupine so I grabbed a brush to try and calm it down.  No such luck.  Now I looked like a hedgehog!  My only hope was to attack with the curling iron, and, low and behold, it looked really good!  Best haircut. I usually have to wash it once after a cut to tame it down. Not so today.  I'm SO happy, but not happy enough to endure another 2 1/2 hours 6 weeks from now.

I'd like to introduce Elder Fontenot.  He's the best southerner ever! He'll be the mission housing coordinator taking care of leases.  Marc's still responsible for the financial part.  Also, he and his wife care for his brother who was brain-injured because he was beaten when he was younger and her mom who's 98 years old.

The more we get to know Elder F, the more we like him.  He's southern through and through--a raconteur of southern hospitality and culture.  He's been introducing us to his favorite foods and restaurants.  So far he's 2 for 2 in good places to eat. Today he brought in a few "specialty items" for us to try. The upper right is sirloin jerky.  Yummy with just a little kick. The middle is Boudin sausage aka Boston butt sausage.  It's made with pork, spices and the "holy trinity"--celery, onion and bell pepper.  The bottom picture is hog's head cheese, but it has nothing to do with milk.  The way it used to be made is now illegal, and I'm not sure the new and improved way sounds much better, so they'll not be included on this blog.  If you're really interested in learning about it check it out on the Internet!  And, yes, I did eat everything on my plate, or paper towel, and tasted it for the rest of the day.  Perhaps I won't eat that for breakfast again.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Prepping for Transfers

I'd like to just crawl in bed right now, after a nine hour day followed by a 2 1/2 hour hair appointment. We're getting ready for the busiest week of each 6 week cycle--transfers! The new missionaries arrive on Tuesday, transfers, lunch & the temple on Wednesday and "go homes" on  Thursday. These are just pictures of some of my activities today.  I also had 3 interesting and lengthy phone calls, 6 new missionary packets to send, being it's usual uncooperative self, incoming packets and files to put together.

I've finally mastered most of the jobs mentioned except the incoming packets which I haven't done before.  These are for Tuesday's new arrivals and include their support and medical cards and 6 other items that need to be labeled or tagged. My biggest fear is that I'll give someone the wrong pin number or get cards mixed up.  That would be disastrous, so I tried to be extremely careful to get papers, bags and cards into the correct envelopes.

The office elders continue to keep us laughing. I forgot to post this one yesterday so here it is.  Every Saturday they clean the office, including bathrooms.  A few weeks ago they started folding the toilet paper hotel style. I think I posted one picture already.  This was yesterday's TP offering! There's sort of a joke going around the office, or should I say dare, that I answer the phone by saying, "YOLO! This is Sister Mimi.  What can I do ya fer."  Anyone in my generation may need to know that YOLO means You Only Live Once.  This is probably what the Lauper children call a location joke because it probably doesn't make much sense, but it'll make me laugh and bring back some fun memories a few years down the road.

It's been almost 8 weeks since my haircut, or scalping, at the MTC, so I knew it was time to find a new hairdresser.  We noticed an Aveda Institute just a few blocks down the street so I booked an appointment online.  I'd been to the Paul Mitchell school with Heidi when she lived in Maryland so I figured this would be similar.  Either I've forgotten what it was like, or PM was much speedier.  Marc dropped me off at about 5:10.  When 6:30 came and went and the stylist was still working on the back I knew it was going to be a painfully long appt. She was a sweet girl and did a good job but could use a little prodding in the speed department.  I now have 6 more weeks to find another salon.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Marc's Happiest Monday

Marc's been a very good sport about going to Olive Garden every Monday.  But last week we had the food-bye dinner for 2 senior couples and one of the sisters wanted to go to Olive Garden even though we'd already scheduled it for another location with a private room.  That kind of did Marc in so today when we got ready to leave he just said he'd bow out because he couldn't do Olive Garden every 4 days.  Come to find out, Pres Wall had eaten OG leftovers for breakfast because he didn't want to waste them.  Yay! we went to VooDoo's Bar-b-q and really enjoyed it.  The meat is supposed to be very good but I went for the sides--greens, corn casserole and yam souffle.  Yum.  It was a welcome change.

Sometimes when I sit down to write about the day I can't even remember everything that I did.  The nice thing is that Sister Olsen doesn't have to supervise which is good for her.  She's been busy getting ready to go home, and has had plenty to do--lots of address changes, mail forwarding, travel plans, etc.  My biggest concern is that she'll leave, the yearly history for 2013 won't be finished, and I won't have a clue how to do it.   Better get that under control--pronto!

I was asked to give the spiritual thought in our Monday meeting today.  Fortunately it's not impromptu or I'd be in trouble.  I chose to take Nephi's advice and liken the scriptures to me, especially Isaiah. Using 2 Nephi 16, which is also Isaiah 6, I likened 2 points.  One was that after Isaiah sees the Lord he feels unworthy, using the words "Wo is unto me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips." Then one of the seraphim takes a hot coal from the altar, touches his lips, and he is cleansed--symbolically his sins are purged." I likened that to partaking of the sacrament--the bread & water being taken from the "altar" or sacrament table and putting them to our lips, and in so doing, renewing our baptismal covenants and cleansing us.  The second point was that Isaiah heard the voice of the Lord saying "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? (Who will do the work of the Father & the Son by calling people to repentance?) Then Isaiah said, "Here am I; send me." Isaiah volunteered for missionary service, echoing Jehovah’s response to the Father in the pre-existence. Young men, young women & senior couples also accept missionary calls by saying, “Here am I; send me.”  That's kind of in a nutshell and it looked alot better on paper and sounded fine in my head. But as soon as I opened my mouth it bombed.  Guess I'll have to work on presentation.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Elder Morrell and Elder King

Back to Plaquemine for church today.  I must say I missed our little branch.  It's beginning to feel like home. I've already introduced the Plackettes.  Now here are the Elders--Elder Morrell and Elder King.  I haven't had much time to visit with them yet but one of these days I will.  As you can see from the picture it was a very rainy day but far from cold.

On the fourth Sunday of the month the Stake Auxiliary Presidencies take turns coming to the branch to speak.  This week it was the Primary's turn, except 2 of the members of the presidency were sick, so Sister Cutler came to represent them, and her husband helped fill in the time with a very good talk, which was a good thing, because it was 9:25 when Sister Cutler finished speaking.  I'm sure that's when the Branch President starting wondering what he should tell the congregation.

Sister C compared life to the Olympic Ice Skating and said that now is our time on the ice.  If we all we can get up and continue on. She also used the parable of the sower and asked if we're good ground or choked by the things of mortality. How do we seek to get "good ground?"  Read scriptures, pray, be nice, be good neighbors, seek to increase the happiness of others. When we bless the lives of others our own lives are blessed.  She used a quote from "Harry Potter" which I have used before and quite like.  "Our choices show what we truly are far more than our abilities."

Brother Cutler talked about the importance of building a firm foundation and used the example of the foundation of the Salt Lake temple.  A few years ago there was a tornado that went through Salt Lake City. His family happened to be in the Salt Lake temple that very day for his daughter's wedding/sealing.  They felt safe inside even though the outside was experiencing terrible destruction.  When the temple was being built Brigham Young changed the temple foundation from granite to another stone to make it more stable.  He used Ephesians 2:20 referring to the Church and Christ as the cornerstone.  He also talked about the family and that it is the foundation of society. We need to build a firm foundation in our families to make them strong.

Pres. Hebert filled in the remainder of the time by reviewing the 2014 Baton Rouge Stake Member Challenge which was mentioned at Stake Conference.  It's purpose is guidance for our everyday lives and to help us build better foundations. (Good questions for self-evaluation and improvement)

(1) Are we having daily personal and family scripture study?
(2) Is personal and family prayer part of my daily routine?
(3) Do I participate in weekly Family Home Evening?
(4) Have I made the temple a priority in my life?
(5) Will I help the missionaries complete their 20 lessons each week?
(6) Do I strive for physical and spiritual self-reliance?
(7) Am I a Christlike member?

We had the Olsen's over for dinner after church, then the office elders came over for leftovers and to help Marc sync his Ipad.  I don't know if everything got finished, but we sure had a fun time working on it.  Then they were off to their "dinner appointment" which was a district dinner with leftovers from a ward dinner on Friday night.  There might have been a time lapse from the time they arrived until the time they left!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

"The Cab Ride"

In lieu of a long list of the typical things we did on P Day, I'm posting a story sent to us by our son-in-law, Jaie, entitled "The Cab Ride."  Thank you, Jaie, for a poignant reminder about things that really matter.


I arrived at the address and honked the horn. 

After waiting a few minutes I walked to the door and knocked.  "Just a minute," answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor.

After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 90's stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940's movie. By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. 
There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.

"Would you carry my bag out to the car?" she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness. "It's nothing," I told her.  "I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother to be treated."

"Oh, you're such a good boy," she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address and then asked, "Could you drive through downtown?"  "It's not the shortest way," I answered quickly.

"Oh, I don't mind," she said. "I'm in no hurry. I'm on my way to a hospice."  I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. "I don't have any family left," she continued in a soft voice. "The doctor says I don't have very long."  I quietly reached over and shut off the meter.

"What route would you like me to take?" I asked. 
For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighbourhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.

Sometimes she'd ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing. As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, "I'm tired. Let's go now."

We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her.

I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.
"How much do I owe you?"  She asked, reaching into her purse.

"Nothing," I said

"You have to make a living," she answered.

"There are other passengers," I responded.

Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.

"You gave an old woman a little moment of joy," she said. "Thank you."

I squeezed her hand, and then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.

I didn't pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift?  
What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?

On a quick review, I don't think that I have done anything more important in my life. We're conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware - beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.


You won't get any big surprise in 10 days if you send this to ten people. But, you might help make the world a little kinder and more compassionate by sending it on and reminding us that often it is the random acts of kindness that most benefit all of us.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Weekend has Arrived

As much as I love being in our office, I'm ready for the weekend.  We're just starting to gear up for transfers which are in 12 days.  We put in a few orders for things like planners, handbooks, Bibles, DVDs, cases of English and Spanish copies of the Book of Mormon, etc.  I also sent out a request to the zone leaders to get their zones' commissary orders in early.  We have to shop for cleaning and household supplies, and that will need to be done next week.  By the Monday before transfers we'll be in "full speed ahead" mode, getting ready for 13 incoming missionaries on Tuesday, 9 go homes on Thursday, and who knows how many will be transferred on Wednesday.  Fortunately the Olsen's don't leave till the Saturday after transfers, so they'll get us through the major bulk of the work.

Pres Wall was in the office today for a long meeting with the AP's and Senior Elders.  They're doing some re-alignment and deciding where the elders and sisters can best be used while trying to meet the requests by Stake Presidents for more missionaries in their areas.  That can't be an easy task, and Pres Wall is trying to get as much done before the new president comes on July 1.  

I'm in the process of redoing some of the files for the incoming and outgoing missionaries.  It'll be color coordinated to make it easier to see which missionaries are going out on dates other than the usual "go home" day.  Pres Wall has the option of extending or go home early up to 30 days in either direction.  We've had one extend and a few go home early since I've been here.  Usually the early go homes are for missionaries who want to start school on time.  We did have one sister whose brother was leaving on a mission.  If she went home on the scheduled date she would've missed seeing him by 2 days.  The President sent her 2 weeks early.  I love that and know she was grateful.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Visas, Tacos and Olive Garden

Yesterday was such a busy day that by the time we got home I was exhausted and didn't have the energy to think.  I did manage to get through the mountain of referrals mentioned on Tuesday. Another 2 hours, but I felt very accomplished by the time they were completed.  The rest of the day was spent doing the usual daily tasks--sending emails, answering a myriad of phone calls and trying to decipher what some people were actually saying, adding to the "Sister Olsen" pile, etc.  I'm actually very glad to have a lot of quirky little things happen, because that gives me more questions to ask and more things to learn.  We're running out of supervised time, and I want as many things to wrong as possible before the Olsen's leave.

This morning we received word that we're getting 2 visa waiters in addition to our 11 others coming on March 4.  Visa waiters are exactly what it says.  They're missionaries going to foreign missions whose visas didn't arrive at the MTC before they were scheduled to leave, so they're assigned to a mission somewhere in the United States to serve until their visas arrive.  We have several already here and doing a great job in English.  Two of our VW's came in with the last transfer on January 22.  Their visas came yesterday and they'll leave on March 3.  We have another elder who's been waiting for his visa for 8 months. No clue how that works out since they're all going to the same country.

It took a good portion of the morning to get everything together for the VW's.  We usually have 2-4 months to prepare the files, but I wanted to complete them before Sister O's return to be sure I could get everything done without her help.  Success!  In a nutshell, this is the procedure:  A labeled file for Sister Wall which includes the medical and dental information and insurance and a file card with pertinent data (name, missionary number, email, medical ID, arrival and release dates, picture, parents info, bishop and stake pres names & addresses, ward & stake), summary page for Pres Wall with the same info as on the file card, labeled file for the office which includes similar info and duplicate file card.  Sound likes very little work for all the time it took.  Lucky for me to have those 2 computer screens or it would've taken even longer.

Here's our office Elders Watkins and Adkins.  It's not the best picture but I laughed so hard at their description of lunch that I wanted to attempt a pic. These 2 go out to lunch every day (I'm guessing they have daddy's credit card because there's no way the amount of mission money they get would cover that) and are on a quest to find the best places to eat for the least amount of money.  They were going to have the "best hamburger in the South" but it's a food truck and it moved to New Orleans. Guess we'll try it when it gets back to our nect of the woods.  So today's lunch was la lengua tacos at La Tiendita.  Ryan conned me into them one time when the 2 of us were in Tijuana.  Anyway, the elders were describing what the pieces of meat looked like--the top of and underside of a cow tongue. It really was quite humorous.  Elder Watkins said he only made it through have the taco before giving up!

Tonight we went to the Olive Garden AGAIN!!!  I'm quite sure I'll never go to OG again for the rest of my life--unless one of the grandchildren requests it.  This was the farewell dinner for the Olsen's and the English's who both leave a few days after our next transfer.  The English's have been serving in Baton Rouge, Spanish speaking, as MLS missionaries.  Interesting thing is that Sister English speaks Spanish but Elder English doesn't.

With only 2 weeks of office time to go before we're really on our own, Marc and I are both feeling that we might actually be ready to take over when the time comes.  Hooray for us!  More like hooray for us that the Lord has absolutely blessed us to be able to understand, remember and accomplish the required work.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Trial Run

Today is our first full day of managing the office without the Olsen's.  They've gone to interviews with the Wall's, and we're finding out what we do or don't know and where we still need some assistance.

What do I know? So far I've received word of 2 incoming missionaries, made up and sent their pre-MTC packet, figured out how to send a new referral for Elder Asuao, labeled some new files to replace the old, tattered looking ones, tried to forward a letter to an Elder who was released a few months ago, but wasn't cooperating, received travel itineraries for the March 4 incoming missionaries--3 are coming from the Mexico City MTC and 9 are coming from Provo.

What do I still need to learn?  I don't know how to change the names of Wards and Stakes in missionaries' profiles.  The first time I tried but couldn't figure out how because, according to church records the ward doesn't exist, so I called the elder whose mom goes to the new ward and asked for the name of the ward.  That ward doesn't exist either. Well, actually, it does, but I didn't type it correctly so contacted our son in Long Beach who's in the same stake and he was able to get me on track. But I still couldn't make the change. Put that in the "Sister Olsen, what do I do now?" pile.

Received a change on an incoming sister's report date. No problem. Went ahead and sent the "new missionary" packet because a new arrival date didn't affect anything.  Went into the computer to change the release date and discovered that it's on Thanksgiving, which may or may not be a problem.  Do we still get incoming missionaries on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving? If so, then do we still have transfers on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving because new missionaries need their companions when they get to church on Wed. of transfer day.  Just another question for the "Sister Olsen" pile.

I did get to visit with these 2 sweet sisters today, both before and after their district service project to remove ground cover and trim branches from a tree stump.  Sister Schmutz (right) is from Cottonwood Heights in the Salt Lake area.  She attended BYUI before coming on her mission and will return in the fall but isn't sure what direction she'll go yet.  She's one of the 21 missionaries who'll be released in August.  She's served in North Baton Rouge, Covington and now Baton Rouge. 

Sister Wolf grew up in Texas but is now from Clearfield, UT. She worked as a CNA before her mission and will go back to her old job when her mission is complete.  She'll also go back to school but isn't sure if she'll continue in the nursing field/ She's been out for 10 months and has served in Lafayette, Natchitoches, Many and Baton Rouge. Love these girls!

So, at 4 pm Elder Adkins said something about a referral which reminded me that I hadn't checked them since Friday. Holy cow! There were 45!  I was hoping to get them finished by 5. No such luck. I only completed 15:(  They take a little time, but I really thought I was a bit more efficient.  This is the process. Click onto the name then type the address in "find a meetinghouse" on  That will give you the correct ward or branch. The time consuming part is figuring out which zone it's in, locating the ward or branch and district, then deciding on who to give it to if there's more than one set of missionaries in the area.  Then you have to determine which ones live closer to the referral so they use the least amount of miles. (Miles are harder to budget than money and they only get 1000/month which isn't much in these very geographically large areas.)  And that's why I'm so slow at this task.  As knowledge of zone, district, ward and branch boundaries increases the amount of time spent should hopefully decrease. I think my next project, during a quiet moment at the office, will be to alphabetize and cross reference the districts and wards.  

Monday, February 17, 2014

47 Years!

We've already celebrated our anniversary, but today is actually the day we were married--47 years ago in the Oakland Temple.  I'm not sure where the time went, but our little family of 2 in 1967 has increased by 20, and we're proud of all of them--children and grandchildren alike. And we batted 1000 with the sons and daughters-in-law. They sent us a beautiful mini rose bush which we left at the mission office where we could enjoy it, because we're there more that we're at our apartment. Did I remember to take a picture? Of course not. So I'll add that tomorrow.  Thank you to our exceptional family for their constant love and support.  We miss you terribly! That's the hardest part about a mission--not being able to be near the ones we love the most. But we do have phones, facetime, texting, emails and all the modern technology we need to keep us connected.

Oakland California Mormon Temple

Sunday, February 16, 2014

A Memorable Sunday

We found a Residence Inn in Covington, having not found anything reasonable in New Orleans. The Mardi Gras parades are also beginning which made it impossible to get anything. That was ok because we drove across Lake Pontchartrain via the longest continuous bridge in the world. It's 23+ miles across. I have to include this excerpt from wikipedia. "Lake Pontchartrain is not a true lake but an estuary connected to the Gulf of Mexico via the Rigolets strait (known locally as "the Rigolets") and Chef Menteur Pass into Lake Borgne, another large lagoon, and therefore experiences small tidal changes. It receives fresh water from the TangipahoaTchefuncteTickfawAmite, and Bogue Falaya rivers, and from Bayou Lacombe and Bayou Chinchuba." How's that for a mouthful?  I took this picture at 50 mph of the rising moon.  Unfortunately the pic doesn't do it justice.

We attended church in Covington in a building that's almost like our ward in Cedar City.  There's such a difference between wards and branches but still a fervent spirit and exceptionally friendly people. The talks were sincere and powerful.  The New Orleans Stake had a Women's Conference yesterday featuring Robert Millet from BYU, and several women in Sacrament Meeting, Sunday School and Relief Society referred to it and quoted from it.  It must have been an excellent meeting. Our RS lesson incorporated some of what he said in the keynote address.  He asked the question "Am I making real growth?" (Real growth being synonymous with true conversion. Then he gave 7 ways to recognize our growth.  1) We will see the laws of the gospel with different eyes.  2) We will see the Church with new eyes.  3) We will see more connections in the scriptures.  4) We will become more people conscious.  5) We will be willing to be inconvenienced.   6) We will be less troubled by unanswered questions. 7) We will see Aostles and Prophets with new eyes.
Two other quotes she used were "Faith is more than a feeling.  It's a decision." ~ Pres. Uchtdorf.  "Doubt your doubt, not your faith."

On our way home we made a few wrong turns. One led us past another cemetary with a new twist--chain link fences around 6-8 plots. Marc thinks to keep the deer from eating the flowers. But I'm not sure because they can jump higher than 4' fences.

The second wrong turn pretty much took our breath away.  I don't know how many acres it was, but what a stunning sight it was!


Saturday, February 15, 2014

Road Trip!

For our Anniversary/Valentine's Day we decided to go to New Orleans for the weekend.

First stop was the French Quarter. I'm guessing that this is off limits to missionaries! There's great architecture, fun gift shops, delicious places to eat, trolleys, horse-drawn carriages, musicians, artists and the like.  There's also a negative vibe, palm readers, voodoo, naughty T-shirts, bars, etc.

The one place I wanted to go was Cafe DuMonde for their beignets. Of course there was a long line for take-out but I knew it would go fast. It has to with the number of people they serve in a day. I've only had beignets one other time & that was at Disneyland. Even in the Mickey shape with cute little ears they were a disappointment. And I thought they'd spilled a whole box of powdered sugar in the bag. Surely beignets in New Orleans would be so much better. Let's just say that the experience wasn't a whole lot different! I guess they're just not my thing, but I can cross that off my "Things To Do in Louisiana" list! My one recommendation is if you go there, don't wear black pants!  It's a bad combination with powdered sugar.

I continue to be fascinated with the cemeteries. This one was by the famous Basin Street. That will be a tour for another day. I had approximately 3 minutes to jump out of the truck, take a few pictures then be on the road. 
This may be the first cemetery in New Orleans, founded in 1853, but I can't be sure. I need at least 2 more minutes to read the plaques. It certainly LOOKED like it could be 160 years old!

Next stop--Houma, which is more than an hour from NO. A package was delivered to the mission office yesterday for an elder in Houma. I was thinking that someone from his zone might be in Baton Rouge for a meeting tomorrow so didn't worry about it. But Marc did. He thought we should take it to him because it was from Harry & David via Cushman's, which is a citrus fruit distribution co. The box was large & heavy--maybe oranges-- and his concern was that they'd spoil before they reached this elder. So we set off with his address & phone number. Suffice it to say that we were finally on our way back to NO almost 3 hours later. Between wrong addresses & numbers that didn't work we had a scenic tour of Houma & the surrounding area. I was starting to whine but after thinking about the reason we're here in the first place, I 
remembered our purpose for being in LA is to serve first & everything else is secondary.

Time to eat! We went back to NO to find a recommended restaurant, but the traffic was ridiculous. Did I forget to mention that it's the NBA All-Star weekend--here!  That means old-timers' game, slam-dunk contest, up & coming something, shooting contest in addition to the actual game & lots of fans. So we drove back to Metairie, a suburb, & had what I've been waiting for--a scrumptious southern dinner. 
Charbroiled oysters at Drago's! Yum!!!
Nice thing about oysters is that you can eat a dozen and not be stuffed because they're very small bites.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Missionary Minion Mistakes :(

Well, this is my attempt to recreate Kennedi's minion idea.  Now I'm qualified to tell you how to NOT do it.  Seems like I'm getting really good at not's.  At least I've learned something in the process--preferably how to do it correctly--both twinkie minions and office errors.  The good thing is that they actually looked ok and the elders and Sister O loved them.  I hope everyone noticed that these minions are wearing their missionary badges.

The senior elders will be out of the office for most of the day as they've gone to get a new apartment in a far away part of the mission about 2+ hours from Baton Rouge, and it's been very quiet in the office today.  So quiet, in fact, that Sister O has gone to a hair appointment and I'm reading children's books by Mike Artell.  Sister O brought 2 of them into the office this morning and they're so dang cute!  Three Little Cajun Pigs is about Trosclair, Thibodeaux, Boo and Claude, de gator.  Jacques and the Beanstalk is another Cajun tale, but she couldn't find her copy of Petite Rouge--A Cajun Red Riding Hood.  I'll be taking these home with me for sure.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

I just love missionaries!

How much would I love to spend all day, every day getting to know our wonderfully delightful missionaries? They're truly the cream of the crop.  Not  a phone call or visit goes by but what they don't wish you a great day and ask if there's anything they can do for you.

Today we had a few minutes with Sister Toleafoa and Sister Astle.  They're Spanish speaking sisters serving here in the Baton Rouge area. Sister Toleafoa is from Orem and goes home the day after our next transfer which is March 5. She's the youngest of 4 children, all of whom have served missions.  When she gets home she'll travel with parents and siblings to Samoa and Australia where they have family.  After that she'll be applying to BYU and looking for a job.  Sister Astle is from St. George. Yay!  Maybe I'll get to see her sometime down the road.  She's been out for about 4 months, so we've decided that we need to stick together after Sister Toleafoa and Sister Olsen leave. Sister O leaves 2 days after Sister T.  What a blessing these sisters will be to their families, friends, wards and communities when they complete their missions.

I've discovered that getting these endearing missionaries prepared to go home takes some doing.  They get a large envelope with a letter of appreciation from Pres Wall acknowledging their contributions and leadership while on their missions. Also included is a history of their areas of service and positions in each one (Jr companion, Sr companion, trainer, district and/or zone leader, sister training leader), travel itinerary, CD (see below), their first letter to the President accepting their call and a little about themselves, and a few other items. Getting 2 packets ready took some time since it was a first.  I hope my skills improve vastly before August when we send 21 missionaries home!

This is not a big deal to most people, but it was a big deal to me. Don't laugh but I actually managed to download letters then put them onto CD's for 2 missionaries who'll be completing their service next week. Pres. Wall asks the missionaries to write him almost every week. They actually email him then we put all their letters on CD's for them to take home. I'm sure that, if they worked faithfully and sincerely, they'll see tremendous growth in the time they were in the mission field.


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A Peaceful Wednesday

This morning was surprisingly quiet so Sister Olsen and I spent most of it talking about favorite recipes. I just figured out how to compact files so I could email her all of the recipes I have in my documents. (I know I'm very behind the times being computer savvy, but this was a huge step for me.)  Sister O had said that the middle of transfers can get a bit slow, so bring a book to read or something else to keep busy.  Our last transfer was 3 weeks ago, and the next one is in 3 weeks. She was right--at least for half the day.

No recipe talk in the afternoon.  Nothing urgent but enough to keep me busy.  We've had several calls lately about getting some kind of assistance.  One lady has now called 3 times wanting us to pay her water bill. Another man was talking about the ice storms and how bad the roads were but never got to what it really was that he wanted. I explained to him that we were an administrative office that helped oversee missionaries and that I would be happy to send 2 young men to talk to him.  I guess that wasn't what he wanted to hear. Then there was the lady who is here with her daughter to pick up a baby that she's adopting. The baby was supposed to be born this week but now the birth mom won't be induced till next week so they're staying in a hotel and running low on funds.  Never a dull moment.

Things are coming much faster now as I get more familiar with programs, forms, what to enter, what button not to push, etc, but I'm pretty proficient on how not to do things!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Area Book

I was so tired last night that I'm not even sure what went on the blog.  Tonight probably won't be much better.  We ran to Walmart to find things for my little "craft" project.  A few days ago on her instagram Kennedi posted minions made out of Twinkies. Marc thought they'd be a fun thing to take to the office on Valentine's Day--not because they're red and heart shaped but because the Walls and the Olsen's lovingly call the office elders their office minions.  If the Twinkies turn out they should be a fun and different sort of treat.  If a picture turns up in a few days then they looked great.  If not, they were an unsuccessful flop.

Back on January 16 I reported on Elder Perkins and the 4 Zone Conference. Something that he talked about was the huge success his missionary daughter had by using the Area Book. I wasn't familiar what this book until it was mentioned by Elder Perkins, so I wanted to know more about it. It's best that I quote from Preach My Gospel.

"You have been given tools to help you record important information about the people you teach.  These tools also allow you to share the right amount of information with those who need it.

"Every proselyting area has an area book, which becomes the lasting record of your day-to-day efforts. Update key information daily, and refer to it weekly during your weekly planning session. Keep it neat, current, and accurate so that any future missionary can build on the inspired service your have given.  As invited, take your area book to interviews or zone conferences, where mission leaders can review it and help you know how to use it most effectively.

"You should refer to some part of the area book each day as you update and adjust your plans. . . This book should stay in your apartment after you are transferred so that future missionaries can use the information."

We have a sister who took Elder Perkins' counsel to heart and began using the Area Book to her advantage. As a result she and her companion taught 26 lessons last week and 27 lessons the week before!  Way to go Sister C!

This is a short poem Sister Wall quoted when an elder was asked to offer the prayer in one of our Monday morning meetings.  In his defense, he was new to this situation but learned protocol quickly.
          On your knees or on your feet,
           Just don't pray while on your seat!

LDS Missionary Training Center Mexico
Have I mentioned how much I like Tuesdays?  The reason is because that's the day we're notified of the new missionaries that will be coming to our mission. It's like making new friends. We only had 2 today, but it's still great. Both of them are from the United States, but both will be speaking Spanish which means that they'll be going to the MTC in Mexico. One will arrive in May and the other in July, but they'll enter the MTC 6 weeks before that.

Monday, February 10, 2014

President Wall

Mondays are extremely busy days.  The schedule is this: get ready for the meeting, have the meeting, go to lunch, follow up with assignments from the meeting.  Sounds crazy but it takes almost all day.  I love the way Pres Wall conducts and handles all situations.  For example, if a problem needs to be resolved the President will ax (yes, ax, not ask--another endearing southern term) the elder to come up with 3 possible solutions to be discussed the following week.  You can tell that Pres Wall has plenty of experience working with people. In fact, he was the publisher of the Deseret New before he retired. Prior to that he had more than 30 years of newspaper experience across the country. Great man!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Meet the Plackettes

A few days ago I took a phone call from an agreeable sounding lady who wanted to speak to a "pastor" but also asked if this was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (She certainly knew and said the correct name.) I told her that this was the Mission Office for the LABRM and that we work with missionaries in this area. This was one of those "what do I do now?" type phone calls, and in the future I will handle this kind of call differently. But this time I told her I'd let her speak to Elder Olsen who works in the office but is not a pastor. After a conversation with her, Elder Olsen said that she had seen 2 sisters in the library (maybe the public library in Plaquemine) and just needed to talk to someone and would like to pray with someone. So he said he'd have the missionaries contact her. We sent the referral to the Plackettes.

Fast forward to this morning Relief Society.  Sister Harris, the RS president, asked if anyone had a missionary moment to share.  Sister Thornley, right side, shared a little more to the story.  She and Sister Hill knocked on the door, and the non-member woman opened it and said: "I know who you are! Come in." They went in and visited for about an hour. This lady, probably in her 70's, met with elders about 25 years ago. She didn't know that girls even served missions. They had a wonderful conversation about the Plan of Salvation and learned that she's very interested in family history. In fact, she goes to the family history library quite often. She's Roman Catholic but agrees with the church teachings.  The Plackettes will be visiting her again.  So here they are--Sister Hill, left, a new missionary who just arrived from the MTC on Jan. 21 and Sister Thornley, her trainer.

After church we decided to take a different route home. Since we cross the Mighty Mississippi to get to Plaquemine we came home via the ferry.  I've never been on a ferry like this one.  This one held 50-60 cars that drive on and fill in all around the pilot house (or maybe the bridge). The current is so strong that you can't go straight across the river.  The pilot powers up river then pulls to the side of the dock, and you exit on the other side of the ferry.  I know explanation makes no sense to anyone including me.  It seemed like we went up and turned around, but that's impossible so I don't really know how it works. But it was a new adventure.  The picture on the left is driving on the ferry and the right one is exiting. It would have been a great picture, but we hit a bump and I missed the top and side of the ramp. After reading this paragraph I'm wondering why I wrote it, but it has to stay because I spent so much time trying to word it correctly and can't bear to see it go to waste.

I didn't write anything yesterday, because it was a quiet Saturday. We did our errands and chores then watched some of the Olympics and ended with a Hallmark movie.  I love Hallmark movies! But, we did do a little shopping and I found a new pair of Sunday shoes.  I've been wearing my flats to church and looking a bit frumpy in them, but the heels I brought are sling back and I discovered that they're not approved attire. Oop! Anyway, I'm very happy with the new ones and they're really comfortable.

Just a note on a Sacrament Meeting talk by Brother Fergusen from the High Council.  He used Elder Holland's talk from General Conference, October 2001 on tithing. Elder Holland gave 5 reasons why we should pay tithing:
First, teach your children that many of the blessings of the Church are available to them because you and they give tithes & offerings to the Church. Teach them that those blessings could come virtually no other way.
Second, pay your tithing to rightfully claim the blessings promised those who do so. Malachi 3:10-11
Third, pay your tithing as a declaration that possession of material goods and the accumulation of worldly wealth are not the uppermost goals of your existence.
Fourth, pay your tithes and offerings out of honesty and integrity because they are God’s rightful due. Surely one of the most piercing lines in all of scripture is Jehovah’s thundering inquiry, “Will a man rob God?” And we ask, “Wherein have we robbed thee?” He answers, “In tithes and offerings.”
Fifth, we should pay them as a personal expression of love to a generous and merciful Father in Heaven. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Meeting the Challenges

Since we're down to 4 weeks before the Olsen's go home and leave us here to oversee the day to day operations of the LABRM, I thought that it was time to pray for new challenges and obstacles to overcome. Best we have more problems now while they're here to help us resolve them.  I didn't have to wait long for that prayer to be answered!

Sister Olsen and I were just discussing a difficult situation we'd dealt with yesterday when I took a call from a man whose daughter is serving in our mission. He wanted to talk to Pres. Wall to help him break the news that the missionary's aunt had passed away.  When we get these types of calls I text the President then wait for him to call so I can explain as much as I can about the situation. I don't like to pry into private lives but need to determine if it's an emergency, really important or can wait for awhile.  I didn't tell him it was urgent but he called back within 15 minutes. He's so attentive and sensitive to the needs of the missionaries.

Throughout the day we had unusual, but not unmanageable glitches that were good tasks to learn how to handle, such as, a referral that refused to be sent (via computer) no matter what we did and required a call to Salt Lake, a woman who called twice wanting us to pay her water bill, form letters that needed to be changed but wouldn't cooperate (another computer issue), notification that we're getting a new sister from Temple Square and how to make her file, etc. I know these and other hiccups aren't a big deal, but it helps to have someone to answer questions, and it's a lot faster!

Just a word on Sister Missionaries who come from Temple Square. These sisters have a unique type of mission.  They don't knock on doors or teach standard lessons. They usually only meet people once then never see or talk to them again. But they are still missionaries with a message of hope and a desire to help bring people to Christ. These sisters spend much of their time conducting tours for the millions who visit the temple grounds each year. But their overall goal is the same as other missions: "to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end."

Because these sisters don't have the same routine as those in other missions, a program has been set up to give them a taste of what missionary work is like outside Temple Square. At about the midpoint of their missionary service, sisters are temporarily reassigned to another mission within the United States. Their assigned missions are chosen by the Missionary Department, and this service lasts for  12–18 weeks, or 2–3 transfers.

Elder O loves getting Temple Square sisters because they're so good at meeting and talking with people.  They've already been serving for 6-8 months, are well prepared to work and are anxious to have a new experience in the mission field.  Well, I think that's what he said! 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Office Angels not Office Elders

How much do I love our office elders? They'll do anything and everything we need.  I don't want to take advantage of them but really wanted the Louisiana Baton Rouge Mission Logo on this blog and for the life of me couldn't figure out how to do it. In hopes of not interrupting their work, I imposed on their time and got exactly what I wanted! Did you see the temple and logo? It's absolutely perfect thanks to Elder Adkins and Elder Watkins--the computer geniuses! Is it possible that they could NOT be transferred out of the office?

Lots of letters to get out today--47 to be exact. Which also included 47 envelopes. I now consider myself queen of cut & paste. Thank goodness for that brilliant feature or I'd still be working. Also, one of my favorite office gizmos is the label maker. My new best friend! Now that's fun. And I can order name tags like a pro. Hooray! Two jobs conquered and only about a thousand left to go.

As I typed, copied, pasted, compared, matched, printed, licked and sent letters today I couldn't help but think of the scripture in Matthew 25:21--the parable of the talents. "Well done, thou good and faithful servant. . . enter thou into the joy of thy lord."  That's pretty much what these letters and certificates are saying. These precious beloved young missionaries have given everything they had for the past 18-24 months and can go home and report to their families, Stake Presidents, Bishops and friends that they were, indeed, "good and faithful servants." Have I mentioned how much I love being here and love getting to know the wonderful elders and sisters in the LABRM?

On the heels of yesterday's  presentation on recording baptisms and confirmations, we had a phone call that could have been a very timely example. Today an elder called with a question on said subject. A young man, age 22, is now getting reactivated in the Church. He was baptized when he was 8 years old and has a picture with his dad just before the baptism was performed. The picture isn't dated, but the dad and mom are both living and remember the occasion. The ward clerk has searched but for some reason it appears that the ordinances weren't ever recorded, so there's no membership number. Apparently it is possible to recreate the record because there are witnesses who can attest to the event. There are a few other steps that will need to be taken, but it can be done. So, the lesson here is to be sure the ordinances get recorded or the person is not counted as a member of the Church.

Just a note:  It may seem as though I'm not including many spiritual experiences, and that is correct. I'm trying to incorporate as much as is appropriate for a public blog.  Perhaps you've noticed that under the header "Louisiana Laupers" are the words "Large Leaves of Laupers." Yes, it's sort of a poor play on words from the Large and Small Plates of Nephi.  These large "plates" or leaves are a bit more secular and a little less spiritual because some of the things I've already experienced are of a sensitive nature or too personal to be publicly shared.  They're faithfully kept in another location so I don't forget the events with time.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Some favorite quotes

The best thing about MLC and transfers is having some time to visit with the missionaries, either during lunchtime or after the meetings when many of them stop by the office. Sister Olsen has a huge candy jar which we keep filled with some good stuff--the kind you confiscate from your kids' trick or treat bags when they aren't looking!

Prior to Sister Olsen's presentation, Pres Wall spoke for a few minutes. He was asking the missionaries if they'd agree to a "no car" day once or twice a month. When he was asked why he said, "You always give 3 reasons as to why.  So his 3 reasons were: 1 - It will help with the monthly mileage allotment. 2 - It will give you the opportunity to find more people to teach because you'll be out among them. 3 - It'll help our waistlines!" Pretty good reasons I think!

In preparing for the presentation, Sister Olsen and I both called Salt Lake for answers to questions we had about filling out the B & C form. Again, I learned something new.  The Church considers the Head of Household as the senior member of the household who is a member. So, if a 15 year old gets baptized and neither parent is a member, the 15 year old is the head of household for membership purposes.  Also, you can enter a preferred name in addition to the legal given name. I just learned about the preferred name and was all over that.  It means that "Mimi" will come up on my records and be used instead of my given name. It actually has to do with being able to find people.  If someone has gone by one name all his/her life but only the given name is on the records, a search (for example, for family history) may not give you what you're looking for because you only know the preferred name.  Did that make sense to anyone but me?

After feeding lunch to the masses we gathered Sister Wall's things together to return to the Mission Home. The Wall's were leaving after the meetings to travel to several more distant locations in the mission to do interviews, attend the Alexandria Stake Conference and to meet a new senior couple who'll be working at Fort Polk.  We took some of the things in the house and coming through the back door was this sign.

I keep forgettting to write this but want to be sure it's included somewhere. Seems like today is as good a time as any. At my sister-in-law's church the blessing for the week that we entered into the MTC was "May you feel the love of God in your heart each day, and may you share that love joyfully with the people in your life."  Jone wrote that she thought it was designed for us. I totally agree! She's been so encouraging about our whole mission experience. It's wonderful to have that kind of support.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

MLC Prep

It's been a crazy, busy day today. We spent most of the day getting ready for the MLC (I think Mission or Missionary Leadership Conference) tomorrow. I'm sure it's been mentioned before, but it's being mentioned again. All the district and zone leaders from all throughout the mission will be here for training, and many will drive in tonight and stay with the local elders. I'm feeling bad for them because the weather is really wild. Right now there's a driving rain storm that makes a monsoon look like a nice shower. It took all of 5 minutes for the streets to flood. You can't even see the sidewalks. I had to take off my shoes to get to our apartment because the water was ankle deep, and I'd rather ruin a cheap pair of stockings than a good pair of shoes.

Back to MLC preparations.  Since all the leadership will be in Baton Rouge we have the missionaries send us their "commissary" needs. We needed a few household items, ie, bowls, spoons, a lamp, etc. so we went to the Mission Home garage where all the apartment leftovers are kept. (Explanation:  When an apartment is vacated and not going to be used again the domestic leftovers are stored in the garage. It eliminates the need for extra purchases and is a great place to shop.) Unfortunately many of our orders came in after we'd gone to the garage so I guess the frying pans, can openers and knives will have to wait for another time. Sister Wall did come out in her cute apron (she always wears cute aprons) and visited for a few minutes, but she was busy making chicken enchilladas for 50 for tomorrows lunch.

Our back rooms are filled with pamphlets, DVDs, Bibles, cases of Book of Mormons, pass along cards, cleaning supplies, light bulbs, and then some. I filled 27 orders this afternoon, and we also needed to copy and laminate a 48 page booklet. That wouldn't have been too bad if the laminater didn't move at the pace of a snail and the copy machine didn't need a rest after every 5 copies! In addition to the commissary items, the February Ensigns came so they needed to be divided into districts along with all the missionaries' mail that we've recently received. Fortunately our awesome office elders will pack it all up and take it to the Stake Center where we'll be meeting.

I did graciously ask Sister O to make the presentation on the Baptism & Confirmation form.  Pres. Wall had originally asked her to do it, and she asked me, but I pretty much chickened out. When we were talking about it the words just rolled off her tongue without having to give it much thought. Why reinvent the wheel?

Monday, February 3, 2014

Gotta Love Mondays!

I actually love Mondays! I look forward to getting back to the Mission Office and delving into our work.  I also enjoy the office meeting followed by lunch (so far always at Olive Garden).  But just when you think you're getting a handle on things everything gets turned upside down and you wonder if 5 more weeks of training will be enough. We talked about some of the needs for the missionaries in case of emergency, ie, hurricanes, floods or tornados. The discussions about who gets what new cars, which apartments are in safe or not-quite-as-safe locations, which branches want sisters, where the President should speak next month, etc. all go right over my head.  I don't know which districts are in what zones yet, so that's yet another thing I want to learn so conversations will make some sort of sense. I did come home and make a color-coded, alphabetized list of all the districts so when someone mentions a district I'll immediately know where it is. Maybe I need a crash course in Louisiana geography! And then there's the "Ditch." That's what they call the Mississippi River down here. It snakes and winds it's way through our mission and you have to know where and how to cross it to be most convenient and use the least amount of miles on the 52 mission cars. I'm glad that's not my responsibility.

One of our missionaries went home today but must have missed his connecting flight so was on standby for another. Pres Wall asked me to see if he made the flight. That took a little doing but was finally accomplished without breaching airline security. Actually, I glad it happened while Sister Olsen was still here for some assistance.  The mom was SO excited when I called to tell her what time her missionary would be arriving. That was fun because I could hear the excitement in her voice and knew what she was feeling.

We're getting information together to send to the new Mission President as Pres & Sister Wall will be released at the end of June. Got out this weeks birthday cards, updated incoming and outgoing list, changed a go home date, processed information from incoming missionaries, ordered a few name tags, had to call some elders to tell them that the people below them in their apartment had complained because they were bouncing a ball at night. Why did WE get this call? What I didn't tell the elders is that the downstairs tenants had called someone in Texas (probably a Mormon friend) and complained to him and asked him to call us. REALLY?  After a conversation with the elders I learned that the complainant (ok, it wasn't a legal complaint) had complained numerous times to a variety of people, including the manager. The floors are so thin that you can hardly walk across them without being heard. And how many hours a day are they in their apartment? Very few.  So if Mister Texas man ever calls back I will very politely tell him the elders side of the story and hope he will relay the message to the whiners. Please don't mess with my elders! I can already feel the mother bear syndrome beginning to set in.

I know this doesn't sound like much, but some things have to be recorded in 2, 3 or 4 locations, so it's all time consuming, but I expect that to change with experience.

You know you're in the mission field when the only 2 people in the whole office talking about the Super Bowl are 2 senior sisters!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Plaquemine Branch

How many times can I say "I Love These People?" We've been assigned to another wonderful little branch in Plaquemine.  I'm learning so much from these small branches and hope I can get it all on paper.  What you see here is what you get. There are no pretenses and nothing fake about these very unpretentious people. It won't take long to get to know them because they're welcoming and open and few in number.  There were about 30 members there today. Most of them are first generation members and some of those have married children in the branch (who are obviously second generation members).  Some have given up family and friends to join the church, and they're well in the minority. Most seem to be part member families. I don't think there were any "complete" (meaning father, mother, children or even husband and wife) families there today.  They give lessons straight from the manuals (no sidebars) and their testimony meetings are just that--honest and heartfelt testimonies. Because so many did not grow up with the gospel as a part of their lives they've had to study and learn everything that I grew up with. Sadly, I can now see how much I've taken for granted. There was one sister in Marksville who'd been a member for about 8 years. She's read Jesus the Christ 3 or 4 times. I've been a member since day 1 and only read it once.

My hope is to get to know and share some of their stories as I get to know these people.  Today's sweet sister is Louise Harris.  I know she was born in 1933 and raised in northern Louisiana, east of Monroe and one of three daughters. Her father left the family after the 3rd daughter was born. Her mother couldn't read so she worked at menial jobs so her daughters could be educated.  She said she'd eat soda crackers and water if she had to so they could get an education.  Her 3 daughters taught her how to read, but especially Sister Harris. Without mom having to exist on crackers and water, she did graduate from Grambling State University and went on to teach English and Social Studies at Plaquemine High School for 40 years. I asked her how she got through college.  A politician gave her a $125 scholarship. The cost at that time was $128/semester and $35/month for room and board. Sister Harris got a job correcting papers in the English Department which paid $16.50 so her mom made up the difference.   Her husband was the basketball coach there and at the junior high school for many years. Although he's been deceased for about 10 years, he was very highly thought of and yearly basketball tournament held at the high school is named in his honor. He was also the Branch President for many years.

The Harris's joined the church about 35 years ago and have 4 children--identical twin sons and 2 daughters, so their children were raised with the gospel. Both sons served missions and all 4 children are WELL educated--1 doctor, 2 attorneys and an educator with a PhD. Sister Harris is currently serving as the Relief Society President and also has a weekly scripture study in her home for any who'd like to attend. And there's no way that this woman looks 80 years old!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

P-Day Note

Note for all future P-Days: Do shopping and errands as early as possible, and try to avoid Baton Rouge streets on Saturdays, especially Sherwood Forest Road! I'd like to think that all of Baton Rouge is doing their shopping on Saturday so they don't have go anywhere except church on Sunday, but I'm pretty sure that's not a good assumption. We did finish up around 1 then went to the Texas Roadhouse for a yummy lunch. We had a terrific server, and the good news is that I won't be fixing dinner tonight. I had fried chicken strips. Finally, some southern fried chicken, and Elder L. had the second item on the menu! Ok, you know if HE ordered Road Kill it wasn't squirrel or 'possum. It was actually a ground sirloin steak.

Tomorrow we'll start going to the Plaquemine Branch. (I think that means we'll be speaking again.) We've been told that they have about 20 who reguarly attend, which makes it smaller than Marksville. But they do actually have a building, not a triple wide. Following the meetings they'll have a "break the fast" lunch. That'll be fun as it will give us the opportunity to meet the members. Sister Wall shared a story with us recently about a baptism they attended in the Plaquemine Branch not too long after they arrived in LA (from Utah). One of the sisters gave the closing prayer, and this is part of what she said: "I give ALL my glory to Jesus. I don't give none of my glory to satan. I give it all to Jesus."  Sister Wall's comment: "We're not it Utah anymore! We all worship the same, but the words may be different."

As of last transfer day we have both elders and sisters in the branch. The sisters are new to the area. Pres. Wall usually names the companionships by the location where they're serving and debated on what to name the sisters. He decided that he didn't want to call them the Plaquemine or Plaq sisters so they've been named the Plackettes! Love it!