Sunday 27 July 2014

Last Post From the Field

This is an exciting and a sad time for us. Serving a mission has been such a great experience! On the one hand, I hate for it to end. On the other, we're so excited to be going home and to see everyone again. We've delivered our farewell talks, enjoyed a good-bye party, laughed and cried and said most of our goodbyes.

Since our mission officially ends tomorrow, we've been busy with final activities and preparations to leave but we still have much to do in the next couple of days. There are no other senior couples available right now to replace us, so we need to close up the apartment. The contents aren't worth the expense of sending a truck up here so we're trying to dispose of everything. 

We bought a utility trailer to allow us to take home what we want to keep, without having to travel in a crowded van. Elder Rhodes had to wire the van for the trailer and install a hitch, which has kept him occupied lately. Our trip home will be another great adventure, I'm sure.


 I had selected the following pictures at the beginning of the month but have been too busy to do anything else with them. Because I'm short on time, my comments and explanations will be sparse. 

Mission Accomplished.
Sending Elder Russell Home.

Virtual Hug

First Impression!? Greeting Sheri.

Second Impression!

Putting Sheri to work doing ..... what do you think? Teaching English of course!

View From the Tower

Like Father Like Daughter!

Ocisco Mine.

Monday 28 April 2014

All-Mission Conference and More

Our trip to Montreal was great! The four elders traveled with us. (That was an experience in itself) 
They're a lot of fun and we enjoyed their company.

I love the winter scenery when we travel. I am fascinated by the icicled cliffs along the highway. These photos were taken from the moving vehicle on our way to Montreal. There is no way to safely stop to take pictures, so I just aimed the camera in the right direction, pushed the button and hoped I could capture some of the majesty of the cliffs. I didn't even roll the windows down. They're even more impressive in real life but I was amazed that the pictures are as good as they are.

When we arrived in Montreal we went directly to the mission office to get the keys to Sis. Abrams apartment. She was our hostess for the night. I was so excited when the first person we met when we climbed the stairs was Elder Grant!  We had not seen him since he had transferred out of Val d'Or in April of last year. After a short visit with him, who should saunter down the hall but Elder Marcus Smith! What a nice surprise to see the two elders we had first served with there together. We hadn't expected to see them until Saturday. We were able to enjoy about a 20 minute visit with Elder Smith before we had to leave, as we wanted to get to the temple for the 6:30 session and now had to fight rush hour traffic.

It was so nice to be in the temple again and enjoy the peaceful spirit there. Many of the patrons were missionaries. President Patrick wants to give all the missionaries in the Montreal mission an opportunity to attend the temple at least once during their service here. The temple will be closed in June for at least a year for renovations, so this conference provided an opportunity for those of us who serve out in the boon docks to attend.
The Montreal temple is the smallest temple I have ever attended, but the Spirit is just as strong, whatever the size.

Montreal Quebec (3133)
Photo by Ralph Shipp on Flickr

The conference was wonderful! It was great to receive training by an apostle and others who work so closely with President Monson. I loved that Elder Anderson said that if we can help others increase their faith in Jesus Christ, whether they join the church or not, our time has been well spent.

Montreal had a lot less snow than Val d'Or. The sidewalks and roads were all dry and in many places we could see grass. So I switched from boots to shoes on Friday. When we arrived at the chapel for the conference at nine on Saturday morning, a few snowflakes had begun to fall. By the time we left the building, around one o'clock, there was about a foot of snow on the ground! And it was slippery! My feet went out from under me and I landed with full force on my left hip. Thankfully, I didn't break anything. I needed a crutch for support for several days and was stiff for a couple of weeks, but I'm basically back to normal now. 

We were on a tight schedule and didn't get any pictures in Montreal,
but Elder Seaman shared some of his.

Elder Drury and Elder Seaman
Arriving at the Conference.

Leaving the Conference!

Typical tempo lined street in Montreal.

The Elders about an hour after leaving Montreal and after lunch.

The Elders a couple of hours later!

The next weekend was also very special. On Saturday afternoon we were privileged to attend the baptism of Josette Boucher. She had been investigating the church since last November. 
We loved her and felt like she was a member from the first time we met her. 
She has a strong testimony of the restored gospel and will be a great strength to the branch.

We met at the pool first for the baptism and then walked to the chapel for the service, followed by a spaghetti supper and the Women's Broadcast. (The men did the cleanup.) 
Our stomachs and our spirits were both filled that evening.

After the Baptism.
Elder Seaman and Elder Thia in back.
Pres. Brulé, Josette Boucher, Sis. and Elder Rhodes

Eight of my favorite people.
Elders Thia, Russell, Fronk and Seaman
Crystal, Stephanie, Kaylan and Kitana

Some activities with the Primary/Young Women

Sweet Sisters
Ketrina and Stephanie

We discovered this new, large skating oval close to our apartment. The temperature was - 20 that evening but the kids up here are not usually deterred by cold weather.
We had a great time. 

Bottoms up!

Taking a Break.

Fabienne Racine, our Young Women President, from Amos (almost an hour north) and Valerie Ochs, my first counselor, from Rouyn-Noranda, try to come to one activity a month. Sis. Ochs taught us how to make beautiful little boxes to encourage the children to save money for something special, like a tropical vacation.

A successful Sunday

                                                   Five Primary Girls and Two Young Women

Relief Society March Party

In March the Relief Society had an activity at Monica Roy's house in Destor,
half an hour past Rouyn-Noranda. We went snowshoeing (raquettes).
The weather was a balmy -12 with only a light wind. 

Ready to head out.

Most of the snowshoes were made of modern materials but Monica saved me a pair of traditional ones.
Normand Roy is a trapper by trade and lives near his trap line. It's beautiful country.

First tumble.
Monica stopping to help Nicole.

The snow is deep. The dog is standing and plowing through the snow with his head down.

Often the snow clings to the branches as if nature had dropped cotton balls onto the trees. This is just a small example. Sometimes the trees along the highway are covered with snow balls for miles. Unfortunately, I've never been able to get a picture of it. 
Snow balls.

I got the picture above from the following position.

My turn to fall. Nicole's attempt to help me up backfired. The dog thought it was time to play.

I zoomed in to get this shot of a neighbor a couple of houses from us.

And you thought shoveling the sidewalk was a pain!
(Not an uncommon sight here.)

No matter what the weather, if the sun's shining, you will most often find Madame Gabreyze 
"taking the sun"; sometimes in front of our apartment, as you see here, but often on a lawn chair in her front yard, wrapped in a blanket with a hot brick to keep her warm.

In March our zone leaders came up to Val d'Or and joined us for district meeting just before transfers. It was nice to have a visit from Elder Messinger, who used to serve here,
and is now one of our zone leaders.

Elders Thia, Pehrson (ZL), Seaman, Fronk, Messinger (ZL), Russell, and Sis. & Elder Rhodes.

We had three cameras taking timed pictures, one of them on rapid setting, and this was the best I could come up with. Does that tell you something?

This is only one example of their antics.

Crazy Elders!

Transfer calls came at the end of March and we lost Elder Seaman. He had been with us for eight months! Besides his regular missionary responsibilities, he spent a great deal of time and effort straightening out the branch records. He was a great support to the branch and the members were sorry to lose him. You already know how I feel about transfers.
But that's life in the mission field!

Branch Presidency Before Elder Seaman's Transfer.
Elder Rhodes, Pres. Brulé, Elder Fronk and Elder Seaman

A former investigator, Natasha, came to Men's Night to say goodbye to Elder Seaman.

Proud to be serving in Canada.
Elders Fronk, Seaman, Russell, and Thia.

Goodbye Elder Seaman.

 Elder Rhodes had hoped to keep his birthday a secret, 
but I made his favorite cake and the English class was happy to help him celebrate.
Happy Birthday Elder Rhodes!


“We're not alone--at least, we're alone only if we choose to be alone. We're alone only if we choose to go through life relying solely on our own strength rather than learning to draw upon the power of God. ”
Sheri L. Dew,
If Life Were Easy, It Wouldn't Be Hard: And Other Reassuring Truths     

Monday 17 March 2014

Two Steps Forward and One (or two) StepsBack

Well, here I go getting behind again. Just when I think I've got it right life gets in the way and I'm back to square one.

For example;
In the middle of January I was asked if I would give a talk in Sacrament meeting on the 9th of February. I agreed and decided I would have enough time (four weeks) to do the research, write the talk in English and translate it into French. It would be a great opportunity to develop my French skills. A couple of days later I was informed that the schedule had been changed and I would now be speaking on the 26th of January. Anyone who knows me knows that it takes forever for me to write a talk (just like a blog!). With less than two weeks to prepare, I spent every available minute of an already-busy schedule preparing. But I was still determined to do it in French. I'm not so foolish, however, as to think that I could do the translation myself in such a short time. I am far from bilingual! So instead of doing my own translating and asking Elder Thia, who is from France, to correct it for me, as I had originally planned, I simply asked him to do the entire translation.

We began working together on the translation on Friday, the 18th. I hadn't actually organized my closing remarks by that time, but I wanted to begin studying the French or I would never know it well enough by the following Sunday. And I knew Elder Thia wouldn't have time to work on it again until Tuesday. In the meantime I could finalize the English version and work with the French he had translated. This was all done on the computer of course, so I printed the translated page and a half so I could carry it with me and study it every chance I got (which is how I learn most of my French).

By Tuesday I was beginning to panic as I realized that learning five pages of French would be more difficult than I had thought if I wanted to be able to convey the spirit of my message and not just read the words. I was relieved when Elder Thia finally came over and spent another couple of hours with me to complete the translation. He planned to come back on Wednesday and work with me on pronunciation and expression. I still needed to do some rearranging of scriptures and quotes in the text, so I decided not to print anything until the next day when it would be completed. HUGE mistake!

The next day our computer crashed! Elder Rhodes had no success in his efforts to correct the problem and finally, late Thursday afternoon, found a shop he felt reasonably comfortable trusting, (The language barrier posed somewhat of a problem.) You can imagine my stress level by then!

We got the computer back about four o'clock on Friday afternoon and Elder Thia helped me study for an hour and a half that evening. We had other commitments on Saturday so I wasn't able to do much serious study again until after supper. (I also had two lessons to teach that Sunday.) I didn't get to bed until 2 am trying to prepare for Sunday. (Good thing seniors are not required to adhere to the missionary rule of getting to bed by 10:30, although we do try to.)

With almost as much prayer as study, I managed to deliver my talk with only three minor pronunciation errors, according to Elder Thia, who was translating it into English for those who didn't understand French.
Except for Elder Thia's help I would never have been able to give the talk in French. He put a great deal of effort into making the translation reflect the meaning and spirit of what I was trying to convey, and in helping me understand the phraseology and pronunciation.

In the end, it was a very positive experience for me. It definitely increased my knowledge of French. More importantly, it strengthened my testimony of prayer and of Heavenly Father's love for and awareness of each one of His children. I know He is personally involved in our lives to the extent that we will allow Him to be and that He will help us accomplish our worthwhile goals if we ask Him, and if we put our best efforts into them.

Well, the laptop worked for about a week and then crashed again. We had a zone conference in Ottawa the following week so Elder Rhodes decided to take it with us to a member of the stake who does something with computers for a living. We met him when he had been up here working on one of the Branch computers a couple of months ago. Brother Cameron  determined that we needed a new hard drive and managed to get it working again by the time we left Ottawa. Elder Rhodes spent the next couple of weeks glued to the computer re-installing programs and cleaning out files. I couldn't get near it. The up-side of that is that I learned to use my tablet more effectively, as it was my only resource for the better part of a month. I tried to blog from the tablet but just messed up what I had previously drafted; so I gave up on that idea. I'm still electronically challenged.

The zone conference was wonderful, as usual. The training we receive is always so encouraging and helpful. The Spirit is very strong when you meet with so many good people who's main purpose is to "help others come unto Christ". I marvel at the dedication and hard work these young people consistently display and at their sincere desire to learn and do what the Lord wants them to do. Working with so many dedicated young missionaries is a humbling experience. They are a great example to me.

The missionary work has been going very well here lately. The elders in Rouyn tracted into a member last month who was not attending church because he didn't know there was one up here. He was excited to discover he could attend church again and has been faithful ever since. Another member who recently moved here from Edmonton is now attending also. A couple of  less active members are rearranging their work schedules in order to be able to attend church again.  One of the investigators the Elders in Val d'Or are teaching has set a baptism date for the 29th of March. Josette is a lovely woman who is completely dedicated. The branch will be blessed to have her. We don't have a font here so we will rent the swimming pool at the CEGEP (tech/collage/university) for 15 minutes. It's just two blocks from the chapel. It will be a unique experience.

I think I mentioned before how difficult the work can be in this area. Many people are disillusioned with organized religion. So many have been, or have family members who had been, victims of the residential schools. And there is a lot of prejudice, for some reason, against the Mormon church. I have not personally had to deal with it but one of the sisters in our branch who cleans homes for a living, lost four jobs about four years ago, before she was even baptized, because her employers found out she was attending the LDS Church. They all knew each other, and when one fired her the others did too.Things settled down after that until a couple of months ago. Since then she has lost four more jobs! one she had been working at for 14 years. As far as she knows, these people don't even know each other. The adversary is hard at work trying to keep people from learning about God. Needless to say, this has been a very stressful time for my friend. But she has taken comfort in scriptures such as the beatitudes:
"Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice and be glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you." (Matt. 5:10-12)

We are looking forward to the coming weekend. We will be at an all-mission conference in Montreal where we will receive training from Elder Neil L. Anderson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Donald L. Hallstrom of the Presidency of the Seventy, and Bishop Gérald Caussé, First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric. We are all very excited!

The following pictures have been sitting here in draft since January.

Abitibi District Missionaries, Dec. 2013
Elder Russell, Elder Fronk, Elder Seaman, Elder Thia
Elder and Sister Rhodes

This was Elder Thia's idea. I love it!

Primary Activity
Making Christmas decorations for the branch Christmas dinner.

Finishing the Christmas decorations in our apartment.
The children love the Elders.
Elder Seaman is such a good sport.

The girls sang Jingle Bell Rock in the program.
They were a hit!
                    Notice the decorations the children made hanging from the ceiling and on the tree.

Caroling sing-along
                                     We don't have a cultural hall so our chapel became our dining room.

The children helped me make cookies to deliver to families to whom we went caroling.

Jolly elves!
We had eight children at practices but only three made it out caroling.

A perfect evening for caroling. The weather cooperated and warmed up to a balmy -20 with no wind chill. We had a great time.

Carpeted Sky

Elder Rhodes found this treasure at a garage sale last spring. I love it.

Santa was here!
Notice my new kitchen floor. 
I forgot to mention that our landlord changed it while we at Zone Conference last October.
What an improvement!

Setting up for Christmas dinner. Elder Seaman often helps with the cooking.

Nicole Lacert, and Levi with the Elders.
It was nice to have a woman's company for a change.

After the clean-up game we played pictionary. We had a ball!

Karleen and Paul visited us for a few days just after Christmas. 
At -48 with the windchill it was so cold we couldn't do much outdoors. 
We had hoped to go dog sledding but thought better of it in that weather.

Walking in a winter wonderland.

But one day when the wind died down we decided to climb the Rotary Tower.
Blazing the Trail.
We were surprised that it wasn't windy at the top; it usually is. 
Three of us were dressed in layers and managed to enjoy the view without feeling the cold too much.

The view from the top is great!

Feeling the deep-freeze.

My cute daughter, Karleen.

My handsome husband.

Karleen taking a panoramic photo.

Karleen, Madame Gabreyze (our landlady) and her son, Henry.

Karleen and Nicole making "plarn" from plastic milk bags to crochet into sleeping mats which are shipped to third world countries and disaster areas. Nicole has made over 130 mats herself in the past year.
To learn more about the project go to Mats4Haiti.

All good things must end. We were sad to say goodbye to Karleen and Paul. We really enjoyed their visit.

Saying goodbye at the airport.

Early morning snow clearing.
View from our bedroom window.

A typical winter scene in Val d'Or.
An accurate perspective!
Our apartment building.
The middle row of windows are ours.

Hauling the snow away.

Chinese Proverb

If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.