Monday 29 April 2013

Conference and Beyond

Elder Grant's last Sunday in Abitibi Branch. Elder Smith on the right.

Well, I guess my resolution to post more often was in vain. It's been awhile since we last posted anything.
Life gets hectic here just as it did at home, but I still haven't figured out where the time goes.

We enjoyed General Conference, it was great as always. We went to the chapel to watch it. We had two computers set up, in different rooms. One was set for English and one for French. There were between 7 and 10 people present, depending on the session. Two to four of them were investigators. The other members watched it on their own computers at home.

Before we left Calgary we bought a DVD on conversational English called "Daily Dose". We thought it might be useful in India. It was only instructional and didn't include the posters that would make it really effective. But we figured if we did need it we'd see if the mission could get the posters for us. We didn't want to take anything with us we might not need, especially the extra weight. When we started planning for an English class here, low and behold!, the Elders excitedly informed us that the posters were at the church but the training DVD was nowhere to be found. Coincidence? I think not. The Lord knows what is needed in every corner of His vineyard, even when we don't have a clue.

The mission president asked that we teach the Addiction Recovery Program since this area has such a need. Those we are teaching are very positive about the strength that comes from the application of scriptures and writing down personal thoughts in the questions at the end of each step. This program gives determination to overcome addictions permanently. We love the people as they have great attitudes. When they find it tough they turn to the Lord and the scriptures and find real strength to endure.

This is the first time we've had to deal with transfers, and it's tough! Thank goodness we don't have to worry about being split. But we are losing Elder Grant. We knew it had to happen eventually. We've come to love Elders Smith and Grant like family. They have strong testimonies of the gospel. They are enthusiastic, hard working and always positive. And they are funny. They've also been sooo patient with us as they've tried to teach us French. We have appreciated their good examples. We will miss Elder Grant but we know the Lord needs him somewhere else now. Elder Messinger will replace him. I'm sure we'll love him too.

The Elders have taught four English classes to date. We will be teaching our first lesson tonight, since the Elders are leaving to take Elder Grant to Ottawa for transfers tomorrow. We generally supply the snack and give support and friendshipping. We've gone from one student to five, two of whom are practicing Muslims. We love them all. They're lots of fun and are having a great time learning.

The Elders are now using the English Learning posters and sticky notes to replace the English words with French ones for our French lessons. It's a very effective and practical way to learn another language and only takes about 20 minutes a lesson. They're still giving us some grammar lessons as well, which I appreciate.
My vocabulary is becoming quite extensive. But using what I've learned is another story. I freeze whenever anyone says anything to me in French. It's not until the opportunity has passed that I remember what I could have said. And I'm very self conscious about using what I do remember, even when speaking to the Elders.
Most of what I've learned I don't really know how to apply anyway. I did decide to take the bull by the horns, however, and bear my testimony on Sunday en Francais. (We had Fast and Testimony Mtg.this past Sun. as Stake Conference is next weekend.) I spent all day Saturday studying seven sentences and listening to Google Translate say them for me. I was very slow but I managed to remember everything. I was told I did well and that my accent was almost perfect so maybe I will be a little braver in the future. I really am enjoying learning French and am determined to be able to at least get by, by the time I get home.

 Dad says he's doing great with his French. He may even be able to speak baby talk by the time we get home. I guess language is not his strong suit. He does much better with hands-on learning, like mechanical and electrical. I think his inability to hear certain sounds makes it more difficult for him to learn the language.
That's OK though. Once I learn, I can do the talking for both of us. We all know how much I can talk.

Last week the men decided they should have a Men's Night Out FHE each Monday night. There are some  men who don't have families in this area. They asked my permission for Ron to join them. We have our own FHE earlier when we study and go out together for preparation day activities. Dad and I made up a Mousy Mousy game. (That was our activity.) All the guys brought snacks. Dad made cinnamon/sugar popcorn. They held it at the church from 7 to 8:30. After the lesson they played Mousy Mousy. It was a big hit. So much so that this week they chose to play it again.

Men's night FHE favorite activity.

A very tense moment.

On Friday I drove out to Rouyn-Noranda to meet with Monica, the sister from Cardston. I wanted to go to the second hand store and also to any shoe stores I could find. We only have one each in Val d'Or. We spent three hours shopping and then three hours visiting teaching. The Relief Society President came visiting teaching with us. It was a great opportunity for me to get to know the sisters in Rouyn. We tried to go for Chinese food after our visits but something had knocked out the electricity on that side of the street, so we went across the street for pizza instead. It was nice to spend some time with just women. I left the house at 8:45 am and didn't get back until 10:30 pm. I think we're going to do it again next month. Good thing senior missionaries don't have to spend 24/7 together like the Elders do. Elder Rhodes would not survive the shopping.

The Elders provided dessert for supper.
A delicious angel food volcano of whipped cream and raspberries drissled with chocolate syrup.
Aren't they creative?

A couple of clowns in our kitchen.
(I'm talking to my mother)

This little cutie had everyone laughing with her antics in sacrament mtg. Mom is the Primary teacher.

Bro. and Sis. Gee drove the 5 1/2 hrs. from Ottawa with the Branch Pres. just to support the Branch.

These three girls come to church without their parents. Only the one on the left is a member.
The man in the chair is waiting patiently for his ride back to Rouyn-Noranda.
His ride, Sister Roy, is in a R.S. Presidency meeting.

Sunday 14 April 2013

More Photos

Some more photos that didn't make it into the April 4 update.

Alicia, Kerri and Daughter

Isn't she beautiful?

Another one of the sweetie

Popcorn and a Movie with Elders Grant and Smith
 - watching the Teaching English DVD


Richard and Ron

Frank with Elder Grant

Just thought you might like these shots of a typical residential street by the end of winter. The interesting thing is that this is not the result of plows throwing the snow up into the yards; the snow is trucked away as it's plowed from the roads. It's the accumulation of the snow throughout the winter.  Notice the lines of dirt in the walls of snow. It's like age lines in a tree trunk. I took these shots after a 3 day thaw. (Imagine how high they were before that.) The roads and sidewalks were completely dry. Then it snowed during the night, which is evidenced by the fresh covering on the cliff tops and the road. Then the plows and trucks were at it again. I find these snow cliffs fascinating  The pictures don't do them justice. You have to see them in person to appreciate them. 

Monday 8 April 2013

April 4, 2013 Getting Settled In

District Split-offs and Study with homemade soup and biscuits
(All the Elders will want to be assigned to work with Elder and Sister Rhodes!!)
April 4, 2013

Bonjour Everyone,

It’s been about four weeks since we last posted on the blog. We can identify with Moroni who said to the Lord, “Behold, thou hast not made us mighty in writing.”(Ether 12:24).

We’re feeling a lot more at home now. We no longer get lost going the three blocks to the church, and seldom end up in the left turn lane any more when we want to go straight ahead. We’ve found that it’s quicker to walk short distances than to try to find a parking spot, and that if you do drive and let the meter run out the fine is only 15$. (Still better to plug the meter generously at .25$ for 20 min.) We’ve also learned to recognise dollars and cents in French, and that two poutines at 4,49$ each, and a small bottle of water somhow add up to 13$. (The taxes here are hard to swallow.)

We have our apartment basically set up. I still have a few additions to make, such as pictures for the walls (email us some family pictures we can frame), something better for drapes and ideally, an area rug for the “living room/study hall”. It’s not a stylish apartment; the pictures on the walls are mostly unframed pictures of the Savior taped or tacked to the wall by previous missionaries over the years, and the furniture is outdated and mismatched, but we’re comfortable. We check our favorite second hand store regularly (the only one in town) for a matching pair of kitchen chairs that will work with the two we already have. We don’t expect them to match our present pair but the same height would be nice. We got a great bargain on a table that seats 6 just in time for Easter dinner. It’s probably from the 50s and cost us 10$ at the dump magazine (store, in English). They rescue anything they think is still useable as it comes in and sell it. We also got a small computer table and a perfectly good, clean ironing board. I have the place almost as clean as I like. One or two more p-days will take care of that. Not that it was really bad, but you know me.

One of my projects was the kitchen floor. The glue from the old linoleum had been seeping up around the tiles, probably for years, and made the floor look perpetually dirty. One p-day I began scraping up the glue and scrubbing the tiles with magic erasers. Eventually Elder Rhodes pitched in and then Elders Smith and Grant. They had come to do their laundry. About 8 man hours later, of which I did 4, we all appreciated the difference.

Before - with the glue that seeped out from under the tiles.
All scraped and washed- what a difference!
 We have a new bed coming on Monday. Yes, you have heard that before. The one we got a couple of weeks ago is not comfortable. I wake up most mornings with sore shoulders. Dad/Elder Rhodes finally admitted that he does too. Thank goodness Sears has a 90 day exchange policy on beds. We went in yesterday and made arrangements to exchange it with no hassles.

I think we’ve met most people in the Abitibi Branch. Few as they are, many of those who come make great sacrifices to do so. The sister from Cardston leaves around 7:30 on Sunday mornings, drives the 25 minutes into Rouyn-Noranda to pick up two seniors that she has to help out of the nursing home and into the vehicle, then goes to get the Relief Society president and sometimes one other sister. She then drives the hour and a half into Val d’Or where our meetings start at 10 am. After church she does the whole thing in reverse. While she’s in Val d’Or she will often make a hospital visit if needed or visit-teach one or two sisters. Her passengers wait at the church where they will eat the lunch or snack they sometimes bring with them. When this sister isn’t able to drive, as is now the case since she just had surgery, our Relief Society president takes a taxi from her home to the bus depot in Rouyn-Noranda to catch the 7:30 am bus to Val d’Or. After the meetings are over she reverses the process, and arrives back home around 5:00. What a great example of commitment they are!

We have been working with the Elders in teaching some investigators. There is a native couple with the cutest 10 month old baby girl that we’re excited about. The Elders had worked with them before we got here. Neither of them drink alcohol, smoke or use drugs. Both of them have jobs. They were at church the Sunday before Easter and the Elders have met with them since. They are coming to listen to the Saturday morning conference session, but the mom has to work in the afternoon. They set their wedding date for the beginning of June so they can be baptised at the end of June. We need strong Church members out at Lac-Simon (the reservation). They could be the ones.

Another person we’re really excited about is a gentleman who has been in touch with missionaries for over 15 years. He has attended meetings in the past but never took the church too seriously. He had been baptised in the Baptist church years ago and sometimes attended their services, where he was fed all kinds of negatives about the Mormons. It didn’t turn him against us as he believes in respecting others’ beliefs, but it did cause him to not give serious consideration to what he was being taught, especially if it was unconventional. He had also been addicted to alcohol, smoking and marijuana for years. At some point he quit drinking, and eventually marijuana as well. After 6 years he started smoking weed again and 6 months later quit again. It’s a long story that I won’t go into. He has also been dealing with depression since December. He started studying with the Elders again not long before we got here. By the time we arrived he was still insisting he had no intentions of quitting smoking, but enjoyed the company and the things he was learning. He is a very sincere man and, in spite of his past lifestyle, has always wanted to know and do what’s right, and in fact, thought he was doing all he needed to as far as church and God went. This time when he started listening to the elders he decided maybe he should pay more attention and actually pray about it. He began reading the Book of Mormon with the intent of finding out what God wanted him to do and had the thought that maybe there was something to this church, since the missionaries have never given up on him after all these years. Was God trying to tell him something? Soon he noticed that his ash trays and buts were becoming disgusting to him. Next he became aware of the tobacco smell on his clothes and his breath, which he said he had never noticed before. Was God trying to tell him to quit smoking? Maybe he should give it a try. He started to cut back. In about three weeks he went from smoking 35 to 40 cigarettes a day to 18 and is feeling really good about it. (In the middle of that he tried cold turkey but that didn’t work for him.)The elders bought him some Calf-Lib so he’s been substituting it for about half the coffee he was drinking, which was close to 20 cups a day. He is much happier now and isn’t near as depressed as he was. He comes to church every Sunday, read the Book of Mormon from start to finish, and is more than half way through the Doctrine and Covenants. He’s a very special person and very humble. I’m confident he will receive a testimony in due time and be a blessing to this branch. We really enjoy our association with him.

We have a few other very nice people we’re teaching as well, most of them native. They are each unique and we love them all. I’m not sure they’re ready to make the necessary changes to be baptised, but we keep hoping and praying. For those who have been following Tanner’s blog, just look at Brother “J” that he baptised recently. That could happen here too.

Last Wednesday we held district study in our apartment as the district leaders were doing splits in Val d’Or.  The Ottawa missionaries joined us by phone. I served homemade chicken and vegetable soup with biscuits and quick pudding for lunch. Unfortunately technology has not yet devised a way to transport food through a phone, so the Ottawa missionaries missed out.  

Sitting down to eat on Easter Sunday - Frank, Richard and the Elders

We invited Elder Smith, Elder Grant and two single men from church, Frank and Richard, who don’t have families, to have Easter dinner with us. I served ham, scalloped potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots and peas. I actually bought an apple pie for desert and enjoyed it. Dinner was a success and we enjoyed the company. Having company on special occasions makes being away from family a little easier. The best part of the day was being able to Skype with some of the family.

Easter Sunday: Waiting to be called.

This past week we’ve been making preparations to teach an English class. Apparently there used to be one, and Frank said people have been asking him if we would teach it again. Just as in India, bilingual people here have a better chance of getting employment. The classes will run Tues. and Thurs. evenings at the church. We’re both nervous and excited about this new experience, although the Elders will actually teach the first class.

We’re still trying to learn to French. I don’t know how successful we’ll be, but I’m really enjoying it. I always wanted to be able to speak it. I’ve learned to identify and use a few common phrases and am thrilled when I can get through a till without having to let the teller know I don’t speak the language. Sometimes we think it will take a miracle for us to actually be able to communicate in French. We’re relying on the gift of tongues to supplement our age related diminished capacity for learning.

Well, I think that covers everything that’s been happening with us recently. We’ll try to post more regularly so you won’t have to read so much at one time.

Au revoir de Val d’Or

View from the bedroom looking across the street
That's snow piled up along the MIDDLE of the boulevard.
(Thank goodness for the chinooks we get in Calgary!)

A typical Winter garage. 

Elder Grant applying his sewing lesson in mending hems.