Tuesday, December 31, 2013

December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!!

As we look back and contemplate the old year, we have to admit that we accomplished quit a bit for a couple of old folks: Trips to California, Denmark, Nauvoo, Wisconsin, and Utah. 

Now we are here serving a mission in Maryland, and while we still can't believe it, we know we are in the right place at the right time.  Our mothers used to say, "Where there is a will there is a way."  They were correct.  If you have a righteous desire and involve God in the process, miracles can happen.  We knew that before but not until now has it settled deep in our hearts.   Jesus said to his Father, "Here am I, send me." (Abraham 3:27).  Nephi said to his father,  "I will go and do the things the Lord has commanded me ...."  (1Nephi 3:7).  And Joshua said, "Choose you this day whom ye will serve; but for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." (Joshua 24:15).  We are so grateful for the many faithful examples of service we read about in the scriptures that encourage us to help and serve others. The Lord assures us that, "When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God".  (Mosiah 2:17) 

Today we attended our weekly district meeting from 10:30 to 12:00.  We then had lunch with the other missionaries at our favorite fast food place, Ginos - burgers and onion rings.  (Oh well, we'll do better next year, right?)  We then helped a sister in the branch to a doctor's appointment and later visited a family who will be moving soon to Wyoming.  We are now planning on celebrating New Year's Eve at home with pizza and watching some of the festivities on TV.  We will not be out and about this evening.

Tomorrow is New Years Day, and we will again be helping with missionary transfers.  We have to be at the Columbia Stake Center in Ellicott City at 8:30 am where we will be assigned our jobs when we arrive.  It could be anything from inspecting vehicles and handling bicycles, to distributing gas cards. We particularly enjoy listening to the newly arrived missionaries as they share their first testimonies, and to the ones leaving - giving their last.  

"Thank you" to all of you for your love and support during this past year.  May God bless you and keep you in his watchful care. 

And like Dory always said to Nemo's dad:  "Just keep swimming!"  

Thursday, December 26, 2013

December 26, 2013

It's been a wonderful week.  I have posted a few pictures here and have written above each one to explain what and where it is from.  It may not be in the right order by date. 


Saturday, December 21, we drove down to the temple to see the lights and to attend the Christmas concert in the visitor's center.  We took a couple and a sister from our branch with us.  I'm not sure why there are no pictures of Brother and Sister Williams, but they must have been walking around by themselves.  Anyway, we had a wonderful time and enjoyed the evening very much.  There are no words to describe the beauty and the peace we felt even though there were hundred of people around.

This room had nativities from all over the world along the walls and in the middle.  Amazingly beautiful.  

Dennis Pitta, formerly of the BYU football team but now a football star with the Baltimore Ravens attended our Mission Christmas Party.  He was kind enough to have his picture taken with all 260+ of us individually.  

Ready for Christmas Eve dinner.  We had invited the whole district but only our own four Elders could come.  We had such a nice and fun evening with all the Danish traditions that I cherish.

Sorry, a little blurry.  

We have adopted all four of them.

Elder Lewis ran into an old friend at the Mission Christmas party.  As you can see they were happy to meet again.  It had been six weeks.

More fun and spirit than you can imagine.  All these Elders and Sisters are the cream of the crop.

Oh my goodness!!  Desserts galore. 

Ham, cheese potatoes, mixed vegetables, salads and rolls.

The following pictures are from our Senior Couples' Christmas Party at the mission home.  Everything was so nice.

President Richards is cutting the pork roast.  What a great man!

Good times.

Sister Richards and their daughter.

More pictures from the temple grounds.
Elder Lewis with our friend Wanda.

Smile :)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

December 16, 2013

     It's the most wonderful time of the year!!

We wish all of you, family and friends alike, a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

This past week flew by.  On Tuesday the weather was really bad so we stayed inside and worked on getting better prepared and organized.  In the evening we did venture out and drove over to visit some really good friends who are going to the temple for the first time in January.

On Friday we attended a special zone training meeting in Annapolis from 10:00 to 3:00.  It was inspiring and well worth it even though the fire alarms went off twice and fire engines showed up each time.  They found nothing wrong but it must have been from the ovens in the kitchen where we were warming the food.  We helped Sister Richards (Mission Mom) serve Chicken Alfredo, garlic toast, and salad to all the young missionaries, and we also helped clean up.  It was nice getting to know her better.  She is so amazing and sweet.

Elder Lewis teaches a teacher training class at church every Wednesday night as well as on Sunday.  I'm taking it also and it's good to be reminded how to be a better teacher.  I'm also having fun teaching my youth Sunday School class every week.  

Saturday night was the Branch Christmas dinner and program.  Everyone brought food and it was a huge spread of everything you could imagine, with many diverse dishes.  I think about 80 people attended.  The Primary children put on a really sweet Nativity program with Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus, the three Wise Men and lots of shepherds.   It was just adorable.  Santa Claus also came and each child received a large cloth bag with their name and "I am a child of God" written on it.  In the bag were a few little gifts, but no candy.  I was impressed.

During the week we have visited a sister in the hospital and an elderly sister in a nursing home.  We have listened to and comforted several members of our branch.  We have rejoiced with a member over a negative blood test, encouraged and helped a sister to get out of an abusive relationship, and cried over another sister who sadly decided to return to one.   We work with and teach  some with addictions as well as other problems.  We have made friends with people who have nose, eye brow, lip, and ear piercings, and tattoos on neck, arms, legs, and face.  We have walked down streets that we would not walk down in the dark, and we have sat in living rooms where I was scared to sit down, but we feel so happy and blessed to be here, and hopefully we are bringing a little hope and joy to these wonderful people.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, we are going to a Christmas dinner at the mission home with all the other senior couples in the mission.  It should be really fun.  Friday we are attending the Christmas devotional and dinner for all the 250 young missionaries.  We will be helping with the dinner and serving.  Saturday we will try again to drive down to see the Christmas lights on the temple grounds and also to attend the special musical program they have there every night in December. We should also attend the Stake Christmas musical devotional in Annapolis on Sunday night, so I hope we're not too tired after a long week of activities. 

Goodbye for now.  Love to all.  

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

December 8, 2013

Well, it's here - snow!  We looked outside during church meetings yesterday, and it was snowing.  By the time we drove home we had about three inches, and it was cold.  It's very pretty and we loved sitting in our cozy apartment later in the afternoon, looking out.  Today it has already started to melt, but more is expected tomorrow.

Last night, here in our home, we really enjoyed watching the Christmas Devotional from Salt Lake City, with the four Elders in the Brooklyn Park Branch.   The music and talks were, as always, very inspirational and heartwarming. 

Before the program, I fixed more grilled cheese sandwiches than I can count, tomato soup and hot chocolate for these young men.  They were cold when they arrived and really appreciated it.  We also made some chocolate chip cookies later to enjoy.   

Thursday evening we attended the Addiction Recovery meeting with a member of our branch.  We were surprised to find out that we were welcome to participate.  It was an eyeopener for us and our hearts go out to people who really are struggling with addiction and have nowhere left to turn but to the Lord.  We learned that with God's help anything is possible but that professional help and lots of support are also needed.  God usually sends help through other people and we saw that first hand that evening.  This program the Church is using is amazing and has helped so many.

Wednesday we visited a sister from our branch for the first time who told us her story.  We were again amazed at the resilience of people who have struggled all their lives but have always felt the light of Christ in their hearts and have searched for the truth.  She is now an active member of our church and just loves being part of it.  She teaches the Gospel Principles class every other Sunday and does a wonderful job.  We had a lot of fun taking her grocery shopping, so she didn't have to carry her bags on the bus going home. 

These two sweet girls were baptized on Saturday.  Here they are with their Primary teacher who is a really good friend of ours.

Remember the changing table we picked up on the side of the road last week?  Well here it is in the corner of our dining room.  Looks pretty nice huh?  Missionaries have to be resourceful, and we are. 

Tonight we had a wonderful Family Home Evening.  We had invited fifteen but eight came.  A recently baptized member led the discussion and did a great job.  We also had an investigator here so we were very happy to include him in our "happy family".   We also each shared a special Christmas memory from our childhood, and it was interesting to learn about other's traditions.

Earlier today we took a sister to a doctor's appointment for some treatments.  She was in a lot of pain in her back, knees, feet and more.  After the treatment she was in even more pain, but the doctor would not give her any more pain medication.  There is more to it than we know, but it was really difficult for us to take her home and leave her there alone and in pain.  She was crying, I was crying, and Ken was upset also.  He gave her a blessing and she was calm when we left.  I hope angels are looking after her tonight. 

We could tell so many sad stories about the people here.  Some times I am overwhelmed, but I always receive strength and am able to carry on.  There are, of course, just as many happy stories to tell.  


I wanted to share something a dear friend of mine, Monika, wrote to me on FB for Thanksgiving.  It really touched my heart:
I am very thankful for something you taught me, something you introduced me to, you and your Church - fellowship! Your testimony has made a great impact in my life and the lives of my girls, thank you Mormor! Alex still has the green hair clip, she holds it dear in a special place in her room. You truly touched us, and we are nothing but THANKFUL!

Monday, December 2, 2013

December 2, 2013

The week flew by because of Thanksgiving on Thursday.  We drove down to Lorton, Va. to spend the day with Linda and Clyde and some of their children and grandchildren.  It was so nice to be with family and to share the holiday with them.  The meal was just wonderful and we were given leftovers to take home to enjoy the next day.  The best!

We had the Reynolds family, one recently baptized member, and two missionaries over for dinner and FHE Monday night.  Elder Lewis shared a story from the August Ensign about giving without judging.  When we keep coming to the Lord about the same problems, he never says,  "You have done this many times before",  or "I'm getting tired of this."  Instead, he is always there with his arms extended to us to listen and welcome us back.  After the lesson we played "The Glad Game."  We each shared something from past experiences that we may not have liked to do but were "glad" we did, because we learned and grew from the experience.  

After a wonderful district meeting on Tuesday  (where our Mission President was in attendance), we served taco salad to all the missionaries for lunch.  It was a hit but I had misjudged and prepared way too much.  I'll know better  next time.  We and our own four elders were a little taco'd out after a couple of days :).

One sister in our branch who has come back to church recently, and whom we love but have worried about because of her personal situation, called us during the week and told us that she was in a shelter for women.  We were happy to hear it because she was not safe at home.  She had left with only the clothes on her back but sounded happy to now be in a safe place.  Yesterday she called again and told us that she had found a small apartment away from here and that she would be moving there today, Monday.  She has nothing - no food, no furniture, and not even a pan to cook anything in.  We called our branch president and he will contact her new bishop so she can get some assistance.  We also contacted the senior missionary couple in that area and they are also happy to help.  I love this church!  

We were so very happy yesterday in church to see a less active member of our branch whom we have been visiting and come to know and love.  Everyone welcomed him warmly and we hope he felt at home again and recognized that he belonged. 

We finally today almost completed our 72 hour emergency kit.  Every missionary must have one - just in case.  It's nice to know that we are ready for whatever may come.  Hopefully we will not get snowed in this winter with no electricity etc., but "we can sleep when the wind blows".

We received a wonderful Thanksgiving package from our daughters and their families in California this week.  Beautiful art work from each child and also candy, cookies, a candle and a funny card from everyone.  We loved it.  Thank you!!!

Love to all from Elder and Sister Lewis :)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

November 25, 2013

Hi everyone,

Our calling is: "MLS" - Member and Leader Support.  The longer we are here, the better we understand that assignment name or title.  We are here to support and lift where we are needed and we just love doing that.  We are doing a lot of listening, comforting, encouraging and loving the members of the church in our branch.  It's pretty much like doing home teaching and visiting teaching every day.  Seeking out the less active members and trying to help them "return to the fold" is also something we really enjoy.  Many people are burdened with difficult family situations, financial problems, disappointments and discouragements and for some reason, when they need the comforts and security of the church the most, they choose to stay away.  Life can be too much some times and we tend to want to hide, but instead we should come unto Christ like we read in Matthew 11:28-30:

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will      give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

~ ~ ~ ~

Last Wednesday was transfer day.  Our mission received about 14 new missionaries and about that many went home.  It was very inspiring to listen to each one as they said good-bye or hello and bore testimonies.  What a marvelous group of fine young men and women.  As one Elder said,  "I came out a boy and go home a man."  It was our first time attending so we were given the easy job of handing out bunches of fliers for the Washington Temple grounds 36th annual "Festival of Lights."   Sister Hilliard is seen here with me.  She and her husband are serving the cadets at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis. Wonderful people.  In the picture below Sister Orton is standing with us.  We were in the MTC with her and her husband.  They are serving in Petersburg, West Va.  

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  We will be driving down to spend the day with Ken's sister Linda and her family in Lorton, Va., just a little over an hours drive from here.  We look forward to that.

Monday, November 18, 2013

November 18, 2013

This past week turned out a little different than we had planned.   We had forgotten that we had to inspect several missionaries' apartments.  Six to be exact, and they are scattered all over the place from Arbutus to Reistertown and Sykesville. It's fun to meet all these special young people, but not so fun to inspect.  We have to thoroughly check everything and make sure the apartment is "move-in ready".  Ken also has to inspect the cars and add fluids etc.  All that took the better part of two days and we were tired when we got home at the end of each day.  We have to do this before every transfer, every six weeks.  Next time we will make sure we make the appointments a couple of weeks ahead of time so we don't upset the missionaries' schedules.

Sunday afternoons, after church, we usually go to visit an elderly lady at a nursing home. Her name is Gladys and she is 85 years old.  She is so sweet and always grateful to see us.  I think of my own mother when we're there and it brings a tear to my eye.  Some times we bring her a treat or some flowers and she likes us to sing "Nearer my God to Thee".  Today, as we were saying good-bye, she asked me to come closer and then whispered to me, "Will you bring me a fruit cake next time you come?"  I said, "Yes, of course!  Do you want the kind with everything in it or the kind with just nuts and raisins.  "Oh, the kind with everything," she said  :).   She is so cute and we love to make her happy.

On Tuesday we had what we like to think of as a little miracle.  We have been visiting a really sweet sister named Diane every week.  Her nonmember teenage daughter Patty is living with her.  They both have MMR.   Every time we visit, Patty goes upstairs to her room to avoid us.  We had never actually met her, but we have written notes to her and she has answered back. Last week when we were there, I wrote her a note and told her again that we really wanted to meet her and that I was going to bring her a present next time we came.  So, after we took Diane grocery shopping Tuesday afternoon, we were at the house when Patty came home from school.  She was surprised, but so nice and sweet, and we spent a little time with her.  We gave her the present - a pretty candle with some crystals around it, and told her it was a bribe!  She laughed and thanked us.  We hope to spend more time with her again soon.  She and her mother have had a very difficult life, full of abuse and abandonment, and need the peace and security only the Gospel of Jesus Christ can bring.

Last Wednesday we drove to Frederick to attend the Senior Missionary Conference.  When we arrived, Sister Richards served her homemade cinnamon rolls and orange juice.  President and Sister Richards then spoke to us and they are both so grateful for having so many senior couples in the mission.  With 250 or more young missionaries, they need the help.  We said good-bye to one couple and hello to a new couple - so we are not the newest kids on the block any longer.  We then shared experiences, ideas and information and at 12:00 we all drove to Golden Corral where we ate lunch together at a long table.   It was really fun.  See picture below.

Our days go by fast and we are usually ready for bed by 9:00 if not before.  Planning and preparing makes a huge difference and it helps us not to waste too much time.  Ken will start a teacher training class soon on Sundays and also Wednesday nights.  He has been busy preparing for that.  

We received a wonderful card from the Gainesville 1st Ward about a month ago now.  Thanks to Brother Engerbretsen and everybody!  We really loved it.   We also got a nice card from my sister Connie for Halloween.  We love getting mail and hearing from family and friends.  You can still use our regular email addresses.  

Monday, November 11, 2013

November 10, 2013

Our friend Rosalia Rey came to attend church with us today and had dinner with us afterwards.  It was so nice to spend some time with her and to hear the latest from the Gainesville 1st Ward.  We miss friends and family there but are very happy here.  We are already worried about having to leave when our mission is over because we feel so close to the people and have made some really close friendships.  

The leaves are falling and the beautiful scenery is changing fast from gorgeous colors to naked trees.  We still enjoy our walks in the neighborhood but have to dress a little warmer now.

Did I mention that our bedroom window is only about 75 yards from a free-way on-ramp, and another few yards beyond that, another ramp, and again, beyond that, guess what - the free-way!  It's louder now with the trees almost bare, but we have become used to it.  The  constant humming puts us to sleep at night.  

Last Monday evening we attended a dinner and fireside with all the other senior missionaries and President and Sister Richards.  Elder Carlson of the Seventy, and his wife Vicki, were there and they spoke to us in a question and answer setting.  He presides over the Middle East and North Africa area, so he had many interesting things to tell us.  On Tuesday we were at an all day conference with them and all the young missionaries.  It was quite an experience - very spiritual and inspiring.  We each had to come prepared to give a 5 minute talk on "What It Means to Be a Consecrated Missionary and the Culture of Nephi." (1 Nephi 3:7 and 1 Nephi 3:15).  Elder Lewis and I were not called on - thank goodness - but we were ready just in case.  

We spend anywhere from four to eight hours a day visiting members of our branch, active and less  active.  We are currently helping two families and three sisters to get ready to go to the temple and will be going with them in the next few months.  It's very rewarding to share gospel principles and see them embrace them.

Time flies.  On Mondays we spend the day doing chores and shopping.  Then we get ready for Family Home Evening and have had a good turn out.  On Tuesdays we attend our district meeting from 10:30 am to 12:00 pm.  We usually then go out to lunch together with the young elders and sisters.  It's always fun.  This Tuesday, we are taking a sister grocery shopping and visiting another family later. On Wednesday we will attend a senior missionaries' conference in Frederick from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm, with appointments later in the evening.  Thursday we have a couple of appointments during the day.  In the evening I am attending Relief Society and Ken is "hopefully" taking a couple of people to the Addiction Recovery Meeting in the Glen Burnie Ward building.  Friday we only have one appointment so far but will find more and Saturday we will attend the temple with the branch members.  Sunday we attend a meeting before the three hour block and then afterwards we go to a nursing home to visit an elderly lady and also take her the sacrament.  We also usually have someone over to dinner on Sunday afternoon.  

That is pretty much how our weeks go, so as you can see, we stay busy.  It's nice though to be able to do what we can and if we don't feel up to it, we don't.

I'm reading the Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt.  Thanks Marsha!  Wow, what experiences he had and what faith and stamina.  I hope we can do just a little of what he did.

Until next time, God bless.

Monday, October 28, 2013

October 28, 2013

It's Fall y'all!!

The trees are turning beautiful colors here and we really enjoy our  morning walk about every other day.  We have seen some beautiful homes and yards.  We live in a nice neighborhood and  the people are very friendly.  Today we discovered that we live only a fifteen-minutes drive from a nice shopping center with a "Sam's Club," Safeway, Big Lots, Ross, etc.  Speaking of neighborhoods ... The branch building is in Brooklyn Park, and you could say that it's a little scary on the streets nearby.  One Sunday morning a "lady" of the street walked right into the lobby asking for money. We also see homeless people in many places.  It always makes me feel so sad and hopeless but it's impossible to help everyone. 

Tonight we are having our second Family Home Evening here in our apartment and are expecting about six to eight to attend.  Last week we were very happy to have four members of the branch come.  We had a good time visiting and Elder Lewis taught a short lesson about "Can you sleep when the wind blows?". We all then participated in a get-to-know you activity. 

On Wednesday I attended an all day Sisters' Conference in Frederick, MD.  About 60 young sister missionaries were there and it was a very spiritual and uplifting day.  President and Sister Richards spoke and some of the young sisters gave presentations.  I was, as always, very impressed with the maturity and dedication of these young 19 - 20 year old women.  One of the highlights was when we were asked to give up or sacrifice something personal - one thing that may be keeping us from feeling closer to the Lord and depending completely on Him.  We were asked to write it down on a small piece of paper and give it to them.  We then all knelt down by our chairs to ask God to help us give up that one thing.  It was a very moving and spiritual experience and I noticed that many sisters were crying.

When Sister Richards talked about how to better get along with your companion, she shared the following thought which made a significant impression  me:

It doesn't matter if you are right;
It doesn't matter if you are justified;
If you have contention in your heart, you are wrong.

We continue loving going into peoples homes to teach them about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  So far we have only taught members who needed a little encouragement and/or refreshing about a gospel principal, but that is really what we are here for: to be of support and to help where needed.  We love the people here and feel more and more at home.  I have promised God that I will never again complain about our little house in Gainesville.  When I see the small places people live in here and are content, I know I need to count my blessings more often.  Content is a word I love. 

I started teaching the youth in Sunday School yesterday, ages ranging from 12 to 18.  Oh boy, I need to be better prepared for this one.  :)

This coming Monday we and all the other senior missionary couples will attend a special dinner and fireside with Elder Carlson of the Seventy.  The next day there will be all training with the young missionaries.  We look forward to it.

Thank you for all your love, support, and prayers for us.  We still look at each other at times and wonder how we got to be here on a mission for the Church.  We recognize small miracles in our lives all the time and are so grateful.  We love this experience and can highly recommend it.

Monday, October 21, 2013

October 21, 2013

It has been a good and rewarding week.

We have become friends with a Catholic Priest - Father Skip - who works in a church right across the street from our Branch building.  We heard he was sick and in the hospital, so we paid him a visit and he was very surprised to see us.  We talked a little religion but we mainly wanted to show him that we care about him.

We have been visiting more active and less active members of the Branch.  We are warmly welcomed for the most part, but many times people are not home - or don't open the door.  We always leave a little note with our names and phone number.  Ken gives "pass along cards" to anything that moves :).  Hopefully we are planting some seeds.  We feel we have missed some really good opportunities also, but we are still learning.

Tuesday we attended our Zone Training Meeting.  Ken and I helped evaluate and make suggestions as we listened to the young Elders and Sisters practice the "Preach My Gospel" manual.  It was a great experience.

Thursday we had a young couple over for lunch.  He is out of work so they are struggling and are a little discouraged.  I taught her to set up a file in Excel so she has more experience to put on her resume.

Friday night we were invited to dinner at a really sweet family's house.  It was nice to be in a home with little children and we enjoyed playing and talking with them, and telling them a story.

We have found a really good 1 1/2 mile route to walk in the morning. We don't do it every morning but really enjoy it when we can, in this Indian Summer.  It's up and down hills in this neighborhood with some really beautiful homes.  I can really feel it in the back of my calves.

We went to the Washington, D. C. Temple Saturday morning - for the 7:00 am session.  It was such a beautiful experience and so nice to see 10 other members from our Branch there.

We both received callings on Sunday.  I will be teaching the youth in Sunday School.  I think there are about six in the class, ranging from 12 to 17.  I'm a little worried.  Ken was called to be the Sunday School President and he is happy that he will be my "boss".

I spoke in Church yesterday.  It was a scary and spiritual experience.  We were happy to see some less active members there who we have been visiting with and invited to church.

We baked a birthday cake for another less active member and took it to his house yesterday after church.  We were so excited when he called and thanked us and invited us to come back to visit him and his wife this week.

There are four young Elders in our Branch now.  We had them all over yesterday after church for a planning meeting and for  make-your-own - Reuben Sandwiches.  They loved it and one of them said he was going to name all his sons "Reuben".

Today we went to Ikea - my favorite place!  We needed several things for the apartment and bought a chair, an end table, a plant, and several other things.  Little by little our apartment is looking and feeling more comfortable.  We are happy here.

Tonight - and every Monday night from now on - we are having people over for Family Home Evening.  We have invited active and less active members to come, and even our non-member neighbor Frank.  Hopefully we will have a good turn-out; if not, we will be eating a lot of apple pie and cherry pie with ice cream in the next few days. :)

Monday, October 14, 2013

Another week has passed.

Hi everyone,

Today is "Preparation Day" which means we clean, do laundry, shop etc..  We really don't have very strict rules, but we try as much as possible, to follow the same rules as the young missionaries.  

Every Tuesday morning from 10:30 to about 12:00 we have a District Meeting and meet with about six sets of missionaries from our District.  We are always amazed at how well mannered, prepared, disciplined and spiritual these young and women are.  They teach us something every time.

This past week we have met many new people.  Last Friday we drove around and tried to visit several members of the branch but no one was home and I was getting tired and discouraged.  Especially at one place where a large dog wanted to kill us.  On the way home we stopped at the store to get a few things.  While in the parking lot, a gentleman walked up to Ken and said "Hello Elder Lewis."  He had seen the name tag.  It was a less active member of our branch.  He introduced us to his wife and we talked to them for about 30 minutes and really enjoyed getting to know them.  They had lost a daughter to cancer when she was 29 and also lost a very young granddaughter who was murdered when she was only 18 months by her mother's boyfriend.  They had had one tragedy after another.  We told them they really needed the Church and that the Church needed them, and encouraged them to come back.  They agreed with us. 

We especially enjoy visiting a sister in the branch, Eva Gross, who is suffering from kidney problems and diabetes.  She lives with her son - or rather her son lives with her.  Just the sweetest little person and so humble.  She goes to dialysis three times a week and is very tired most of the time.  

We could tell you story after story about the people we have come to know and love.  We feel like we have been here for a long time but it has only been a month.  

This coming Saturday we are going to the Washington Temple.  We haven't been there in 30 years.  A sister in the branch is going for the first time and has asked me to escort her.  I feel honored and happy to do it.

Below you see a couple of pictures of our apartment living room.  We love it.

Love to all.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Finally time to post again

Dear family and friends,

Wow, I can't believe we have been here in Baltimore for almost a month.

We finally had our computer hooked up last Thursday and it feels good to be able to check email etc. without having to use my little iPhone.

After returning to Gainesville from the MTC in Provo, Utah, we packed our car - to the top - and started driving north Wednesday morning, September 9th.  On the way we visited Fred and Sylvia in North Carolina, Ken's cousin Mack and his wife Martha in Richmond, and lastly Linda and Clyde in Lorton VA.  We truly loved spending time with each of them and are so grateful for their hospitality.

We arrived at the Mission Office Saturday, September 14th, and was met by Sister Jones who works in the office.  She gave us the keys to our apartment and a large welcome basket and off we went.

The following Monday we went back to the office and met President Richards and his wife.  Oh my goodness - they are the most wonderful people and were so gracious to us. After talking to them for a while, we all (President and Sister Richards, Elder and Sister Pascoe and Elder and Sister Jones who work in the office, and us) went to lunch at a Chinese restaurant.  It was really fun to get to know them.

We have been living temporarily in an apartment in Odenton for three weeks, about half an hour from where we serve, but we are now in our "new" apartment in Halethorpe and much closer to the Brooklyn Park Branch and all the members here.  Today our bedroom furniture and all the "kitchen stuff" was delivered and carried in by our young Elders.  Now I can start making this place feel "hyggelig".  Most of you know how I am.  I have to have plants, candles, pillows, etc. etc., around me to feel at home.

Speaking of home ... I have had a few pings of homesickness from time to time, but I think it's because we have not really felt settled until now.

The Brooklyn Park Branch is wonderful.  We already feel at home and very much needed.  The members are loving and have welcomed us with open arms.  Because of General Conference we have not received callings yet, but expect that to change this coming Sunday.  Many of the members live in what we call row houses, very small apartments that they pay too much for.  The so called slum lords don't do anything to keep them repaired and looking nice and charge way too much in rent.  I have already threatened to contact the Mayor. :)

We have met so many wonderful and interesting people and recognize the Lord's hand in sending us here.  We mainly spend our time visiting less active members and try to help where we can.  Many have opened their doors and hearts to us where others have not been able to get in.  We have listened to the most heart wrenching stories of broken lives and broken homes.  I thought I knew a little of suffering and heart ache but I don't.  We are both amazed at the strength of the human spirit and how people survive in spite of abuse and evil.

Missionary work is a wonderful way to "forget one self and go to work."  We are so grateful for making the decision to serve the Lord and hope we can make a difference.

We love all of you and are so grateful for your love and support.

Elder and Sister Lewis

Friday, September 6, 2013

We're Like Family - notes from the MTC

Text from Sister Lewis 9/5/13 8:26pm

"Today was another wonderful day at the MTC.  Devotionals and classes are fun and uplifting.  We're learning to teach and invite others to come unto Christ.  Our district has 6 couples and 3 single sisters.  We're like family and we love them all.  Dad and I walked through and around the whole MTC.  Dad said this is where Jackie and Kristen walked.  We're on sacred ground.  

The constant swarm of missionaries smiling and saying hi is so beautiful.  The spirit of this work is all around us.  Tomorrow is our last day of classes.   Sad it's almost over.  We're going to the Provo Temple Saturday morning.

Hurrah for Israel!"

Marriott Center Devotional - notes from the MTC

Text from Sister Lewis 9/4/13 4:17pm

"We are resting after a long day of classes and devotionals.  I just had my second hepatitis booster shot. We're going to dinner later even though we are still full from lunch.  The evening is free to practice and study for tomorrow.

Last night we went to the Marriott Center with thousand of other missionaries, young and old.  It was so amazing.  Elder David F. Evans of the Seventy spoke.  He is the Executive Director of the Missionary Department.  He shared with us everything that has taken place since the announcement last October of lowering the age to serve.  Unbelievable.  This place is swarming with missionaries.  I love to look at them all in the cafeteria.  Two other couple here are going to our mission.  Really nice people!

We might go to the BYU football game Saturday".

Text from Sister Lewis 9/4/13 6:28pm

"Fried chicken with gravy, mashed potataoes, peas, roll, salad, ice cream.  Oh my gosh!!  We're having dinner at Bryan Morse's Sunday".

Everything is Wonderful Here - notes from the MTC

Text from Sister Lewis 9/4/13 12:33pm

"Everything is wonderful here.  Never had so much fun and met so many wonderful people.  We are BFF with everyone.  The spirit is so strong here.  We gave our first lesson this morning to a "practice couple".  So neat.  The food is great but there is too much.  Dad and I just watched some of the 700 young missionaries arriving today.  Lots of big and wet eyes.  One car arriving after the other.  The Lord's work in action.  We're on the wave.  So grateful to be part of it."

Small World - notes from the MTC

Text from Sister Lewis 9/2/13 5:34pm

"I have to tell you this...we were just eating dinner and this other couple came and sat with us.  We talked and found out that he was Alma Yates - the brother to DeAnna Yates who was a missionary in Denmark and I named Deanna after.  I LOVED their family and spent so much time with them my first year in the US."

On the "Wave" - notes from the MTC

Text from Sister Lewis 9/2/13

"It's 3:45pm and we're free for the rest of the day ;).  We're going for a walk, then dinner and study some this evening.  The room is really nice, right here at the MTC 3rd floor.  But wait...no TV!  We LOVED eating lunch with herds of young missionaries - all so sweet.  147 senior missionaries arrived today.  650 young missionaries will arrive Wed., 100 every 15 minutes.  We're on the "wave" and so happy to be part of this glorious work."

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Sept. 2, 2013. MTC - We're Official!

Jackie Fisher, our daughter, wrote this on Facebook the day we entered the MTC:

Our beautiful missionary parents!  Just checked into the MTC!  So proud of you guys.  Tears flowing.   Elder and Sister Lewis: never been more excited for you both!  

"Now behold, a marvelous work is about to come forth among the children of men.  Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength.  If ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work."

September 2, 2013