Baton Rouge Louisiana Temple

Baton Rouge Louisiana Temple

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

All's Quiet On The Southern Front"

After the busyness of yesterday it was SO quiet! The Assistants and Office Elders went to the New Orleans North Zone Conference and Elder F had things to do outside the office. The phones were even quiet which made it possible to get a mountain of work accomplished and even get a bit ahead.  I bagged and boxed all the commissary for the New Orleans South Zone Conference on Friday and now have 20 packets ready for new missionaries. That was huge, and it's so nice to know that prepping for incomings will be so much faster. Only the letter from the President will need to be typed and included before these packets go out. Hooray!

Because it was so undisturbed here today, except for a quick visit from some of our Baton Rouge Spanish elders on their way home from a service project,  I was able to spend some time searching referrals for the past year for the Chalmette sisters. They were looking for contacts that they could call or visit to increase their teaching pool.

Left to right are Elder Peltzer, (from CA), Elder Billings (UT), Elder Howald (TX) and Elder McMurry (UT)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Getting Ready for Gladys Knight

Tonight is the Gladys Knight and Saints Unified Voices presentation at the Baton Rouge Stake Center. If you've ever been involved with the organization and behind the scene at this activity, you'll know that a lot goes into the pre-preparation. That's what the 21 boxes are. They're filled with gift bags containing a copy of the Book of Mormon, "The Restoration" DVD and a CD of the SUV choir. It was recommended that we put together 400 gift bags (they furnished the bags and CDs) as they anticipate that there will be that many referrals resulting from the 2 programs and 2000 people who'll attend. It was a whirlwind in here this morning trying to get it all together. There were 8 elders and me--bagging, sealing and boxing said items. I hope the phone didn't ring. If it did no one heard or answered it.

Between boxing the bags and notification of 7 new missionaries that came this morning, the day's been pretty busy. We actually have 8 missionaries coming, but one is a senior couple so they only get 1 letter, etc. Brother Hastings actually called here about 2 weeks ago--probably when they received their call. We had a nice visit, so I was waiting for the email. They've already served one mission in the Philippines, and he said they were called to be specialists. Did I know what that meant? I didn't. Apparently I didn't hear the word "office" before the specialist, so when I saw the actual assignment I knew it could spell trouble.

Before all the elders descended to assemble the bags, President Wall called. He'd seen the incoming missionary names, including the senior couple, and wanted to ask about how we were enjoying the office assignment. I was very quick to tell him that we love it here and would really like to stay. He was so kind and complimentary of us and actually sounded very happy about us wanting to remain in the office. He said we're doing a "fabulous job." That felt great. Evidently Salt Lake still thinks we're MLS missionaries and that there's no office couple since the Olsens left, so President Wall is going to call and let them know that our assignment was changed and that it would be great to have another senior couple elsewhere in the mission, but not in the office. He thinks that Salt Lake will probably reassign the Hastings to a mission where an office couple is needed. Whew!

For the record:  If President Wall had wanted Marc and me to return to MLS status we would have done it. We'll go wherever we're needed, but we're SO grateful that the need it right here!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Beautiful Baton Rouge Spanish South Sisters

I'm never happier when we get to spend quality time with some of our missionaries, and today was one of the wonderful days. Sister Miskho, Sister Bailey and Sister Astle came over for Hawaiian Haystacks and Cherries Berries in a Cloud. They're excited because they have a baptism coming up in a few weeks.

It was such a delight to have them here and learn about them and their families. This may be repitious, but Sister Miskho is from Mesa AZ and the oldest of 4 children. Her mom served a mission in the Netherlands, and her dad. She keeps a "Grateful Journal" everyday and says it was hard at first, but now she see's the hand of the Lord in many ways each day. When she has hard days in the mission field she reads her journal and it always lifts her spirit.

Sister Bailey grew up on a farm where they raised alfalfa. I missed some of the conversation with her when I went to the kitchen for dessert. She's also the oldest child, and her brother just put in his mission papers. Sister B was in our most recent incoming group. She was the only sister with 5 elders and also the only one who came in from the Mexico City MTC.

Sister Astle asked if we were having Pavlova for dessert when she saw it. Now what does a St. George girl with a Wyoming cowboy turned Ob-gyn know about Pavlova? Her mom's from Brisbane, Australia! Love them all. I only wish that we could have all the missionaries over at some point. Not all at once! Unfortunately we can only have the ones who live within our district boundaries.

Angola Penitentiary Rodeo

Yes, this is where we spent a good portion of the day--the Angola Prison Rodeo! The Olsen's told us about it when we first arrived, and Marc was ready to order tickets that day! I wasn't quite as anxious, but can now say "been there, done that."

Angola is the largest maximum security prison in the United States and is also called "Alcatraz of the South." It's not quite an island but is bordered on 3 sides by the Mississippi River. Just where I wanted to be! No name tags today--it just didn't seem appropriate.

We arrived a few hours before the rodeo began which gave us MORE than enough time to look around at the arts and crafts. It was a bit like being in a Mexican port town with all the tents and tables set up with about the same variety of wares as those ports.  Lots of leather--purses, belts and key chains--paintings (thankfully none on black velvet), jewelry, and tons of woodwork, including tables and chairs, chairs and more chairs, all handmade and crafted by the inmates. There were actually some very beautifully made items but nothing I couldn't live without. It's good that many of the "residents" of Angola have found better ways, albeit forced, to spend their time. This really brings home the reality of the blessing of free agency and making wise choices.

Now on to the food. Mostly it was just too hot to eat, but the cold bottles of  bottles of water were lifesavers. The air was heavy with the smell of grease. One thing that wasn't fried was crawfish. It's crawfish season in Louisiana, and boy are they excited. Time to break out the boilin' pots which are bigger than any pot I've ever seen in a church kitchen--probably 80-100 quarts! Most live crawfish come in mesh bags of about 35-50 lbs. The recipe I found only feeds a family of 6 comfortably. That's for a smaller sack of about 28 lbs! OK, you only eat the tails--unless you want to suck out the eyeballs. I'll opt out on that activity.

These Louisianans LOVE their crawfish boils. But don't pronounce it like a Californian. It's taken me 4 months to actually get "bawl" out of my mouth correctly. (Now I know how President Uchtdorf felt when he said that English was impossible for him. He thought his mouth was not made for speaking English. Well, I SPEAK English and "Southern" is pretty darned tricky!) Crawfish haven't been plentiful until now because the weather's been too cold. Cold weather drive the crawfish deep into the ponds, and they stop feeding and entering traps. When the water temperature is below 50 degrees, crawfish stay dormant under dead plants at the bottom of ponds and swamps, not scavenging for food, and not growing!

So I got a bit side-tracked. This lady had 2 boxes of crawfish, which includes boiled potatoes and corn, and was enjoying immensely with her 3 cutie daughters. Dad didn't want to be included in the picture. A few other available offerings were turtle or alligator on a stick and fried coke. No problem passing on any of those. FYI: Fried coke looked like the bunuelos we use to make which were just a batter dropped by spoonfuls into hot oil then dusted with powdered sugar. Thank you Sister Badal. Our family loved them. Anyway, the milk is replaced with coke in the batter.

Now on to the rodeo. The arena was built fairly recently and only took 3 months. Lots of available labor! I was SO grateful that it was covered. There was such a nice breeze and that made it completely comfortable.

The rest of this post will be more pictures than words.  The 3 Spanish (speaking) sisters living nearby are coming for dinner, and it would be good to have something to feed them. These aren't all of the events, but it'll give a pretty good picture of what goes on here. And yes, I did take all of the pictures.

After losing half of this blog I'm now going to give a brief description of the rodeo events and call it quits. There were a few typical events like bull-riding, barrel racing (by some local teenage girls, and buddy pick-up. And then there were some out-of-the-ordinary activities. One was a hula hoop something. 6 cowboys each stood inside a hula hoop, then the bull was released.The last man standing in his hoop wins. The next pics are buddy pick-up or cowboys vs. horses.

 The craziest even that we watched was "inmate poker." Four men are  sitting  on their chairs at the "poker table" when the Brahma is released from the chute. This bull, whose name is Freddie Krueger, just about wiped everything on with his first pass through the "gambling hall!"

We didn't stay for the whole rodeo for 2 reasons. We'd been invited to the Fontenot's for dinner, but also poor Elder L was anticipating exiting the penitentiary with 10,000 other spectators. Anyone who knows Marc knows that just isn't going to happen.  It didn't!

Dinner at the Fontenot's was so pleasant. They live on a large, beautiful, peaceful piece of land surrounded by huge trees and a creek running through the backyard. When we arrived we thought they'd invited half the ward. Elder L was barbecuing pork ribs, chicken halves, pork riblets that must've be 1/4 lb each, hot dogs and pork/venison sausage that I have to admit was delicious! Also on the menu were baked beans, potato salad and homemade ice cream for dessert. We came home feeling like 2 little porky pigs but what a unique day it was!

Friday, April 25, 2014

"Warrior Days" at Fort Polk

When today's events were unfolding I had so much energy and excitement and wish I could've captured everything as it happened. Now I drop dead tired after leaving this morning at 7, closing the office at 5, going to Walmart & Sam's Club, having dinner and chopping chicken. It's now 8:45 and I can't even read my own notes. So I really hope that the message of today's little miracle comes across!

Brother and Sister Arave are a senior couple assigned to serve at Fort Polk, which is in Leesville and a 2 1/2 hour drive from Baton Rouge. Sister Arave called sometime before noon. Who knows what time it was. I never look at the clock! I could hear the excitement in her voice. The Church has been asked to participate in the "Warrior Days" on Fort Polk next Friday. One of the activities at this event is a sharing of religious information. The Army puts up a huge tent for different religions to give out whatever they choose to share. Traditionally it's always been Catholics and Protestants. Today the head Chaplain invited the Arave's to join with the other churches. They were told that they'd need to have at least 100 "bags" to handout, so Sister Arave called me to see if I had any suggestions as to what to include. My mind was racing trying to think of what the best things would be. We came up with a few ideas but decided to think about it and talk to a few other people.  Of course the best person to speak to would be President Wall, whose at a conference this weekend. I just didn't think it was a good idea to call him.

About 1/2 hour later Sister A and I spoke again and were developing a plan. The problem is that we don't have enough supplies in the office to assemble that many bags. And we could never get things here that quickly from the distribution center without incurring huge costs. We hung up again, still undecided, and it wasn't 5 minutes before who should call? He was in between classes and had a quick question which I actually could answer for him! Then I made super quick explanation of "Warrior Days" and asked for his help. I knew he'd be ecstatic, and he was. Here's what he said: "OK, Book of Mormon, Restoration DVD and My Family and have it overnighted! Gotta go. (In a whisper) Next class is starting." I quickly figured out that we could actually do it without overnighting. We'd just received a shipment from Distribution today with 100 of the DVDs we needed. Monday our Book of Mormon order came in. (20 cases/40 books each) And we had 200 copies of "My Family: Stories That Bring Us Together" that I'd tucked away in the back. (President Wall is working on a pilot plan with one of the stakes to incorporate family history with missionary work.) These are the wonderful new family history booklets that are a great way to get people started on their four generations, including places for your family tree, stories and photos.

Marc has to go to Marksville next week so he'll take all the cases and meet in Alexandria. The A's are thrilled that this has all come together so perfectly. It always does when the Lord is in charge! Some other time I'll share the A's story on how they actually came to be invited to participate.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Elders, Elders and Elders

I've mentioned Temple Square Missionaries before but don't think I mentioned that the sisters who serve there are from countries all around the globe, speaking enough languages to cater to the majority of visitors from around the world. Beginning with the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, sisters have been wearing tags with their national flags along with their missionary name tags.  Sister G, who served here for several months, just sent Elder G and Elder A their national flags. Of course, they needed their pictures taken!
Elder Adkins and Elder Morrell came into the office today for a few commissary items. Elder A was reassigned as a Zone Leader at the last transfer and is on an exchange for 2 days with Elder Morrell, my Plaquemine Elder. His companion is Elder Smiley, and he's spending the 2 exchange days with Elder Mapa, Elder A's companion.
Last but not least are Elder Crane and Elder Mecham, Zone Leaders for the Denham Springs Zone. President Wall gave them an assignment which required them to be in the office today. Yay! More Elders to get to know!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Precocious Killdeer

Today I was introduced to a beautiful little bird called the killdeer. No, it isn't pronounced like it looks. Big surprise, huh? Apparently these birds builds their nests on the ground, and that's when this story gets good. I should mention that we have a nest somewhere outside the office, and you can hear mother bird all day long.

So, they often nest on gravel. They'll use a slight depression in the gravel to hold the eggs without even lining it, or maybe they'll line it with a few stones which will make the nest look like it's just part of the surroundings. It just blends into the background. The eggs are speckled so they look more like stones than eggs.  Sometimes you'll see an adult moving down the road, and as as you get closer it suddenly develops a broken wing. It struggles and acts like it can barely walk, and sometimes drags one or both wings on the ground. Pitiful little creature. So you try to catch the little guy to take him home and nurse him back to health. It almost lets you reach out and pick it up while leading you further and further away from the eggs and nest--as far as 2 blocks away. When he or she feels like the eggs, or even the new young'uns are safe from you, the broken wing suddenly heals and the bird flies away callin a loud "kill-dee" that sounds like a jeer.

I tried to get a picture of the ittle guy today, but I'm no match for a hopping bird. But I'm going to keep trying and am in hopes of finding the nest for a few pics. Sadly, these aren't my pictures.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Exodus Begins!

Today was the day that I pulled files for our 21 August go-homes. Not too much to do other than sending out 21 personalized letters in 21 personalized envelopes to 21 sets of parents requesting updated information on 21 missionaries' addresses, emails, phone numbers, Bishops, Stake Presidents and closest airports. Other than that it was nothing. I benefited from the fact that the office elders and Assistants were all attending a Zone Conference over an hour away, and Elders L and F had some housing and fruit fly problems to check out in Chalmette, over an hour away in the other direction. Don't get me wrong. I love having all ages and sized of missionaries around, "Quiet" was my best friend today, and I came home feeling like I'd moved a mountain.

Now that we've been through 2 full cycles of transfers, I've decided that it seems redundantly redundant to reiterate what I do from day to day. You could print a calendar based on my routine and would be fairly accurate on any given day. So, unless, things are a bit out of the ordinary, exciting, strange, comical, enigmatic, breathtaking, electrifying, aggravating, energizing or otherwise different from the norm, I probably won't write it. Maybe I won't include aggravating. This should be a positive record. I do write those events in the Small Leaves of Lauper along with personal and sensitive entries.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter!

It's a beautiful Easter Spring Day in Louisiana! What a perfect time to think of that Easter morning many hundreds of years ago when our Savior arose from the tomb that enslaved all mankind and made possible Salvation and Eternal Life. I can't say it as well as, but I can quote it.

"Jesus is the Son of God, our Savior and Redeemer. Because of Him, death is not the end, and life takes on new meaning. We can change, we can start over--and we can live again with God. This, [and every] Easter, we celebrate His life and discover all that's possible because of Him...Because Jesus Christ is the Savior of all mankind it's possible for each of us to live again with God."

I know this is true or we wouldn't have left family and home to be here in Louisiana for 18 months.

President Riggs called 2 weeks ago to invite us fo Easter, and we accepted! What a muy delicioso spread. You can probably identify the front row. There's also baked beans that were almost as good as Arlenes, potato salad, fruit salad, coleslaw, homemade rolls, our ice cream jello and pink lemonade cake. And they sent leftovers home for all of us. No cooking tomorrow!

Sister Riggs is very much like Mom when it comes to decorating. We ate outside in the breezeway type area, and the table was beautifully set. Are the Walls and the Riggs cute people or what?

Saturday, April 19, 2014

My First Fish Fry!

Yesterday Brother Mills from the Baton Rouge 1st Ward invited us to the High Priest Social at the Maughan's home. When about 30 people were there they said they'd fire up and put on the meat. Well, of course, I thought that meant barbecue. What California Girl wouldn't? We started at one table and Sister Someone was putting what I thought was chicken fingers on a plate. I just thought it was a little extra protein they'd bought and were serving out of brown bags. Surprise! It WAS the protein. And it was really good. I'm sure it wasn't scooped out of the bayou because it was so fresh and didn't taste like mud. In fact, it didn't taste like anything except the breading and spices. Well, that was really fun:)

Here's Elder Steele. Remember him from Alexandria? He's Elder Watkins new companion, and we're going to love working with him. And he's quite a brilliant young man.  Welcome to the office, Elder S.

Elder Gillan is on the back left. He's Elder Navitakula's new companion. Elder N is on the back right. Next to him is the Bishop, as of 3 weeks ago--Bishop DeHoop. He was born in Aruba, lived in the Netherlands till he was 5, then his family moved to the United States.

The only sister at the table is Miss Iris. We're at her home. Her husband is the Ward Mission Leader and she's Methodist and hilarious. She's been into the office a few times and calls herself "the coupon lady," because about every month she brings in a stack of coupons for the missionaries to take. I need to get to know her better, because, just as we were starting a good conversation, they had the former and the new Bishops say a few words. All I know now is that the Maughan's have 8 children, 22 grandchildren, at they (Brother Roy & Miss Iris) leave the country at Christmas!

Fun evening, good food and nice people. Now if I could just remember all of their names.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Can it get any busier?

Fortunately the day ended better than it began! We arrived early again--7:15. You can get so much more accomplished without interruptions. No one would be there till Elder Fontenot arrived--usually around 9 am. First on the agenda was to get the organizational rosters assembled and out of my way. Click and no IMOS. NOOOO! Try again. Nothing. Reboot computer. Nope. 90% of today's agenda was IMOS-related. And no elders would be in today. Honestly! I'll be praying my way through this mission, and that's not just morning and night but at regular intervals during the day. Finally, about an hour later, it decided to cooperate. Whew! Another answered prayer.

So, below is the pre-assembled roster, all color-coded. Alexandria, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Denham Springs, New Orleans North, New Orleans South and Senior Missionaries.

Lots of challenges today and this week, but we worked our way through them. This has probably been the most difficult week we've had, but Marc & I agree that, now we've been through a complete transfer, it's a feather in our cap. We've been forced to figure things out and have learned that most of the time help is only an office elder or phone call to Salt Lake away. 

I did have to call about an IMOS problem, and had a new experience--putting the computer on remote and watching the cursor move by someone 1800 miles away. Pretty amazing world we live in. Lucky us!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Reality of Transfers

Now I know what it feels like to work a 12 hour day without a lunch break! It's great if you're on a mission. Any other time--probably not. My main goals today were to get the emails out to new missionary parents giving them their addresses, (That really should've been done yesterday.) send out letters to the parents of new trainers, and get the organizational roster and directory ready to print.

I wish I could say "Mission Accomplished" but I can't.  The emails went out long before 8 am, so I thought I was off to a great start, which lasted for about one hour. When it came time to write the parents about their missionaries' new assignments as trainers I could only find the one to parents of sisters. That's just great since there were 5 elders' parents to write. After a futile search I gave up and edited each individual "sister" letter, changing all the she, her, and sister references. "Your daughter, Sister John Smith" just wasn't going to work. There should also be a "trainer again"-type letter which I couldn't find, so those aren't done yet. On to the roster which I couldn't do till the office elders gave me the phone number corrections and Elder Fontenot had the address changes. Of course, by the time I needed those Elder F and Elder L were off to Lafayette and beyond on a housing excursion and to pick up the Plaquette's car that was rear-ended yesterday. They didn't get back until after 4. Marc was driving the wrecked car to take to the place that does most of our auto repairs. But he got caught in some nasty traffic, and vowed when he walked through the door that he was never leaving Cedar City again!

In between trying to get all of the corrections made on the roster it became another crazy phone day--  1. Questions from a new May incoming missionary
 2. A mom who wanted to know how to spell her son's companion's name so she could send a "care package" to the comp (every companion's dream)
 3. A mom who wanted her son's new address because all he could tell her in his email on Tuesday was that he was being transferred but didn't know where
 4. A neighboring mission who had an investigator in the hospital in our mission and wanted a blessing before a triple by-pass
 5. Elders needing a DVD in Spanish because they only have English and they're Spanish elders
 6. An attorney from SLC who needed to speak to Pres Wall ASAP and wanted his number, but I'm not really authorized to give it out so had to text the President
 7. A Stake Pres who wanted to talk to Pres Wall about a missionary from his stake who's being released early for medical reasons. I hadn't even heard about this one. Just before I got a text off to the President, he called and asked me to change the release date and get the travel arranged. I didn't get very far because my travel lady is out till next week and her back-up had gone home. When the Salt Lake offices are closed you know you should be somewhere besides the mission office. Also, the clearance hadn't come through from our Salt Lake liaison to change the date more than 30 days. That's all we're allowed without his authorization.
Etc Etc. Etc.

By the time I could actually concentrate on the roster it was after 5, so I turned the night key on the phone, closed the front window and went to work. Ah! Peace and quiet is what I needed. I do need to say that I'd tried earlier to get all of the changes made but hadn't done this on my own before. Sister Olsen was still here answering all my questions 6 weeks ago. But today I was going in and out of programs and downloading a variety of stuff that wasn't what I needed.  Unable to get into the correct report and ready to dissolve into tears out of frustration, I put my head down and started to pray. No one was in the office and most likely couldn't have answered the questions I had anyway. I only knew one place to turn am so grateful for an immediate answer.  Things cleared up in my head, and I was able to go directly to the program I needed and start making corrections. By the time the office was quiet I at least knew what I was doing and could work without interruption. We left the office at 7:30 after printing a rough draft for the office elders to check. They're leaving at 5:15 tomorrow morning and will be far, far away all day, and I need to get this thing printed tomorrow and off my plate.

Today's bright spot included Easter cards, candy and letters. Thank you RML's and Nemeth's! Every missionary loves mail--and we're no different!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Lo hicimos! We did it!

I just dont' know how a mission can get any better than ours is! I love it so much! As busy as Transfer Day is, it's by far the best day every 6 weeks!

We started out this morning at the mission home with our orientation for the 6 new missionaries. Then it was back to the office long enough to regroup, answer the messages that came in last night and this morning, pick up the sandwiches and off the the Stake Center to set up tables, cloths, make punch, put out cups and napkins then get to the meeting. I took some notes but may have to finish tomorrow as we have 1 hour before leaving for the temple.

One of the things I liked about President Wall's introduction was that if you feel bad about leaving and area that's good--because you've learned to love the people.

Sister Wall talked about an elder who was here before any of our missionaries. Elder C was an 18 year old red-headed, fun, free spirit needing a little taming. He'd been out 18 months when he was assigned a new companion who helped Elder C make some major change and become more serious about his mission and less concerned about himself. She said it was a turning point for him, and he went home feeling good about what he'd done here.

Back to President Wall. This is a very special transfer week because it's Easter. We wear our names and the Savior's name on our name tags. He has called us to be missionaries. We can share his sacrifice with his other children. Your assignment is to serve the Savior in whatever you're asked to do.  He'll help you. That's what the Atonement is. He will lift, aid and help you. Heavenly Father brings about circumstances to get His work done!

Even though we only have 2 elders being released tomorrow, we have 2 others leaving before our next transfer, so the 4 shared their "what I've learned" thoughts.

Elder Cisneros: Talk with everyone and invite people to join with you.

Elder Mastache: Love your companions. Unity is how we do the Lord's work. Get over your selfishness and see what the Spirit can do in your life. Give your heart to the Savior. That's how we're converted. He'll engrave His countenance on us as we give our hearts to Him.

Elder Gilbert: Life is made up of how we use our agency.  It's why Christ died for us. The amount we change depends on how much we love and give for the Savior.

Elder Jones: I was terrified about my own inadequacies. At my first interview with President Wall challenged me, as Elder Bednar had recently challenged our mission, to study the Book of Mormon and find people who couldn't do something on their own. Study their stories. Because of Jesus Christ and His Atonement we not only receive a remission of our sins but can literally change as we ask His help to do what we couldn't do on our own.

Words of wisdom from some so young. They will have so much to offer when the go home. I'm now running out of time so I'll have to comment on some of the pictures and some of these sweet sisters  & elders and how much they mean to me.
The sad part of the day was saying good-bye to Elder Adkins. He and Elder Mapa are the new zone leaders for Baton Rouge, so we won't be seeing him everyday. At least he's still in the area. They'll be living with the Assistants. Our new office elder is Elder Steele, one of the first 2 missionaries we met, along with Elder Larson, when we arrived in LA. He's very knowledgeable and we will love working with him. Yet another Great Elder.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Bicycle Train

Are these the cutest elders ever? The are the Assistants and Office Elders loading up the new bikes that were delivered to the office recently.  It'll actually be nice to get them out of the elders' work space so they can have a little more room to move around.  Elders Adkins and Watkins were on their way to the mission home to pick up all the luggage that came into town with the 6 new missionaries that arrived safely today--no bad weather, so missed or canceled flights, no weather delays, and no unexpected trips to the New Orleans airport.  Hooray! We asked the AP's how the new missionaries were doing. They were tired but fine, but poor Sister B is the only sister in the group and is feeling a bit lonely on her own. Well, I know who her new companion will be, and I'm so excited for them both! Sister B will be well taken care of. From checking the transfer board, it looks like she'll actually be in a trio with her trainer and a sister who came in on our last transfer. Sister trainer will be a busy mother hen.

For the second week in a row we had no new missionaries assigned to our mission.  In our meeting yesterday President Wall said something about the southeastern part of the US is being looked at to see if missionaries are being utilized in the best possible way. I don't know this for sure, but maybe they're waiting till a decision has been made to make any more assignments. And I could be totally wrong which is nothing new:)

I'm wondering how we can keep so busy from 7:30 to 5:30 and I have nothing to write about. Must be because of  things related to transfers. I know tomorrow is going to be bitter-sweet because of the changes that will be made, but that's all a part of the mission process and has to be expected. It will also give our elders, particularly, new experiences and potential to grow. Now I'm off to prepare for tomorrow's orientation. I didn't even get around to doing that today.

Monday, April 14, 2014

"Because of Him"

Don't miss "Because of Him" on It's 2:44 minutes that you won't forget. The Church purchased a banner for Easter. But you don't have to wait to see it.  Just don't miss it!

Today was such a great day but extremely busy. I ran in and out of our office meeting 5 times to answer the phone and am so glad I did, but I think I'll be changing my usual seat to make it easier to get to the phone. Remember Miss D who left a message on Friday, and I didn't get the number right. Well, prayers are answered, and one of the calls was from her. After apologizing profusely she told me about her contact--a young man she and her sister met while in a New Orleans dress shop. Somehow they all got talking and one of the things he said was, "all I ever wanted to be was a dad." After explaining to them that his dad wasn't there when he was growing up, he asked them if that was a strange thing to ask. That's just a portion of what Miss D said. After she went back to Utah she became face book friends but didn't hear from him for about 2 months. She decided he wasn't interested in learning more about the Church. And then he contacted her and told her that he was touched by her concern for him and desire to share something with him that was so important to her. To make long story short, the missionaries have a new referral and will be contacting him.

Lunch with the Wall's today was delightful and enlightening. We had the opportunity to discuss some of our concerns and responsibilities and also those of the office elders. We just want to be sure that all of our ducks are in a row when President and Sister Hansen come in. Some of the things that have been happening recently have caused us to wonder what should be allowed and what shouldn't, and where our authority begins and ends. I know--that was so vague and leaves you wondering what I'm actually saying. I guess that's the way it'll be for now.

The Wall's are wonderful people! It's been such a pleasure to get to know and appreciate them. It's going to be difficult to say good-bye. And very transfer gets harder, because we're slowly getting to know more of the elders and sisters. This week's transfer is really small for the incomings (6) and go-homes (2), but the transfer itself will involve about 100 missionaries, which is 30-40 less than the last two.

And speaking of transfers--I'm laughing because it seems that more moms have called than missionaries. They're wanting to know if they can get the new addresses. Um, no. I actually have access to the transfer board (on the computer) but have no authority to tell anyone who's going where. Guess they'll have to wait till the next P Day and a missionary email.  I did tell one mom whose son arrives from the MTC tomorrow that I'd send an email with his new address. But that's the best I can do.

Now, since I forgot to bring my list home that includes things I wanted to write today I'll be signing off for now. Besides, we went commissary shopping after office hours ended, and now it's bedtime. Happy Day and good night!!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sister Linda and Sister Linda

What a great way to get to know people--give them rides home from church!  The first Sister Linda is Sister Johnson.  She's lived in Plaquemine all her life.  Her dad is from Plaquemine and his mother was from a reservation in South Carolina.  So she said, "Ah don know what ah am!"  Too bad she lives in Plaquemine.  We didn't have much time to visit.  Almost everyone whose lived in this area for long comments on Sister Harris's husband.  He seems to be a legend in these parts. This is what she told us this morning. If you didn't show up for school he'd just come to your house, wait for you to get dressed then take you to school. No one gave him any trouble because they knew he'd just wait till you were ready.

Sister Linda Taylor lives in Port Allen.  This branch has some huge boundaries!  Port Allen is practically on the Mississippi. Oh, that's probably why it's a port. What a revelation. It's a good 15 miles or more from Plaquemine.  This Sister L was telling us her conversion story.  It was about 15 years ago when she and her husband were having a serious dispute. She threw her hands up in the air and said, "I just don't know what to do." Just as she did 2 elders knocked on their door. Unbeknownst to Sister L, Brother L had being praying for "God's help." They invited the elders in, and by the time they left, the L's had forgotten what they were arguing about.  It wasn't too long after that they were baptized. She works for Burger King and takes her job VERY seriously.  I love a person who puts heart and soul into whatever they do. She does the customer service and handles the counter.  What a fun lady.  She also has hot flashes.  Nothing is sacred here:)

In Sunday School today our lesson was Moses and the exodus.  I can't even remember how it came about, but Sister Harris said that the medical symbol of the caduceus was related to the snake staff that Moses held up. When the Israelites were bitten by the fiery serpents the Lord sent all they had to do was to look on the brass serpent and they would live. I've never heard that before but liked the thought. I don't think she was at all suggesting that doctors are miracle workers but that their purpose is to help sustain life.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

St. Francisville and Beyond

We haven't ventured too far from Baton Rouge lately so decided to take advantage of a "not too much to do" day.  

Our first stop was Port Hudson. a Civil War battle site that was, and still is, the location of the longest continuous siege in American Military History. "There have been other longer battles and engagements but not in the traditional sense."  I'll leave that statement for you military buffs to explain.  Controlling the Mississippi River was a major part of the strategy in the Civil War.  The South needed the River to transport supplies and the North wanted to prevent it. The Union had already gained control of the Mississippi in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Vicksburg so this was the last port to give them control of the River. Once that happened the Confederates were unable to get supplies or reinforcements. Now that's ALL I know or care to know about Port Hudson, and by tomorrow I won't even know that much.  

On to St. Francisville, a little town known for quiet life and historic homes, churches, shops, restaurants and courthouse on the the national historic registry.  It's in the Parish of West Feliciana which also includes several plantation homes we drove around but didn't tour today.  We're trying to figure out the best places to go when family comes and don't have a ton of time.  The one place I wanted to go but forgot about was to see the national bald-cypress tree, the largest tree in North America east of the California Redwoods.  It's on Cat Island National Wildlife Refuge, and if they'd put Cat Island National Wildlife Refuge on the map we were using, we might have remembered to go there!  Here are some of the things we DID see, because THEY were on the map.

Of course, the first thing Marc wanted to do was check out this home that was for sale.  I think the man likes blue houses with white pillars, wrap around porches and gables.  Not to worry.  I'm not moving to Louisiana permanently.  This house is selling for $800,000 and would probably take another $300K to renovate it.  But it's very cute!

The beautiful courthouse is part of the Historic District, although not as old as many of the other buildings.  It was built in 1905. The statue in front is a Confederate memorial statue. 

The Grace Church is the second older Episcopal church in Louisiana. It's Gothic architecture and was built around 1858. But we were more interested in the ironwork of the gates and fences and also the gardens and trees.  Spring has arrived in Louisiana and it exceeds my expectation of beauty.

This is a very typical Cajun home that we passed while driving through town.  There's been an interesting progression of homes that led to this particular style.  When the Acadians first arrived in Louisiana they put up temporary shelters made of wood and palmetto leaves similar to what the Native Americans had been building for years.  They had a pole frame and the palmettos were used on the roof. First generation homes were primarily used in 1765-1795.

The second generation homes (up to 1827) were more substantial and often put wood vertically into the ground for the walls. Gaps between walls were filled with a mud and straw or moss mixture.  Roofs were shingles or wood.  The homes were built directly on the ground.

The Acadians finally learned that building wooden homes on the ground was not the way to go. Insect damage and occasional flooding were very inconvenient. They noticed that the Creole homes were often built off the ground.  This kept the home from water and insects and helped provide better ventilation. They were built on pillars of wood or brick.  They were small, maybe 15' by 25' in size with galleries (a fancy name for porch) and chimneys made of bousillage (the mud/moss mix) then later from bricks. If you were lucky enough to have a 2 room home the chimney was often between the rooms.  

By the mid-1800s, the common Acadian house was a larger version of the 3rd generation. The gallery was in front and sometimes the back for 2 reasons.  It gave them a place to sit and cool off and socialize.  It also allowed for a taller roof to provide room for storage and sleeping quarters. There were stairs to the attic, and the upstairs sleeping area for the boys was called the garconniere.  As families grew a separate but connected building was often built for kitchen space or bedrooms. Windows had no glass but were covered by wooden shutters. It was common to have 2 front doors opening to a family room and kitchen on one side and a bedroom for the parents and daughters on the other. Now you know more than you ever hoped to know about Cajun or Acadian homes, and wasn't that a lot more interesting than Port Hudson?

Rosedown Plantation. We decided to come back when the roses are in bloom--maybe sometime in May or June. They're probably not as prolific and beautiful as Marc's roses, but we're going to give them the opportunity to compete for 1st place!

Catalpa Plantation is a smaller home that wasn't open today for tours, but the driveway into the home is SPECTACULAR!!!

A few shots of the Afton Villa Gardens.  The home burned down in 1963 and only the gardens remain. After paying our $10 we found that we were competing with 2 weddings, so our stay was shorter than planned.  The gardens are truly picturesque. And the sun dial was right on time.  It said 11:30, which would be correct if we weren't on daylight time. Maybe it should be moved to Arizona or Hawaii where they have some sense about time. This might be my favorite picture of the day. Just imagine what could be done with something besides an iPhone. The moss was perfectly framing the partially sunken little row boat. Yup! That's a great picture:)