Len & Kit's Missionary Adventures in California

Monday, October 31, 2016

And Now for Something Completely Different

It was definitely an unusual week. 

President and Sister Clark were away at a Mission President’s meeting.  Of course he was still texting and calling back and forth as needed to take care of business here.  Sister Bradshaw was at home all week.  She expects to be well enough to return to the office at least part time on Monday.  In her absence, we have learned how to transfer calls and how to take care of the mail but would be lost trying to make the numerous lists she creates to keep each of us informed in a customized format that suits our particular needs. 

Len was AWL (Away With Leave) from Thursday until Saturday to attend the funeral of a nephew, Joshua O’Neil, who died unexpectedly in Montana.  Len and Whitney met up in Seattle and flew together to Bozeman where Joshua’s ‘celebration of life’ was held.  In spite of the sad loss, it was good to bond with family (O’Neil, Gunderson, Mattson).  Whitney saw a number of family members she hadn’t seen for decades, and they visited some of our family’s history sights (MSU campus, Bozeman cemetery, other).

It finally rained here parts of Thursday, Friday, and Sunday.  People were ecstatic.  It must have rained more steadily at night than during the day, because there were plenty of large puddles, even though we never thought the rain amounted to much.   At times there was a splatter of enormous drops mixed in with light rain that didn’t even leave one’s shoulder wet.  It was as if one could “run between the raindrops”.  I didn’t see people with umbrellas even though the weather was expected.  When I stopped at a store in the large shopping area near us Friday evening, they had very few customers.  There was a sign on the door that said the store was closed “due to inclement weather”.  I was shocked!  It was such an ordinary evening.

I have a new challenge of providing suitable small appliances to help a new senior couple be able to cook meals without a stove.  They will be in a very nice apartment near Yosemite for six months.  I think it will work out quite well but has taken some effort to figure it out.  The test I set for myself was: how could they make a Thanksgiving dinner?  I figured they’d never have a bigger challenge than that.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Fast Pace, Faith and Foliage

Charming neighborhood on our commute

Zone Conferences were carried off successfully – much scrambling!  For the last one, Len and Brother Bradshaw went while Kit manned the mission office.  Sister Bradshaw has continued to have health issues so was home in bed on Thursday and was hospitalized that night.  Len went and helped some Elders move to a different apartment on Friday morning while Kit again held down the fort at the office.  There were lots of people in and out that day since it is when the zone leaders pick up mail each week. One package was a frozen salmon!   A few challenging phone calls:  “How can I get someone to give my relative a blessing? She lives on the road to the dam.”???  We were glad for Saturday when we could slow down.

Last night we went to the baptism of a mother and daughter we know from our Sunday School class, who have been investigating the church.  The daughter lived in the Deep South for some years.  When her widowed mother Dolores had some health problems, Marian moved  back to Fresno to live with her and help her.  Marian had found out some things about the church online before moving home.  She invited her mom to learn about it with her and now they are members.  It will make their lives quite different from what they would otherwise have been and they are very happy for the changes and the shared new beginning.

The ward choir began practicing so of course we are going to that.  It’s always wonderful to make beautiful music and a good way to get to know people, too.

This week’s pictures show a little of the charming neighborhoods we pass through going to and from work.  The side streets are inviting with trees arching over the road.  Sometimes it looks almost like a tunnel. And notice that there is a tree in this picture that knows it is autumn.  Having colder nights here than in AZ makes quite a big difference.  The chill also contributes to successful production of fruit for trees that require some cold.  The second picture shows how people plant hedge walls to provide privacy from the street.  They are very effective and sometimes very pretty.  They can also be a hazard when they block views around corners or obscure stop signs. This picture shows oleanders, but there are several other varieties used, too.

Home-grown privacy walls


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Zoning Out

Who would have dreamed the best corn on the cob of the year would be in mid October?!  Beautiful young corn – not chewy, sticky late corn.  We are definitely enjoying the fresh foods of Fresno!

We were glad for a week without travel to catch up on paperwork at the office and prepare for the big new experience of Zone Conferences.  Now we’ll be out of the office again for at least half of every day this week.

The missionaries submitted orders for more teaching materials, cleaning supplies and other items like small appliances, light bulbs, furnace filters, etc. a couple of weeks ago.  We have been out shopping a few times lately to fill all the orders.  On Tuesday, all the missionaries from the northern part of the mission will have training meetings and collect the things they ordered.  That means we package up each order and take it to the place where they will meet.  Same drill Wednesday for all the missionaries in greater Fresno, and Thursday to the southern part of the mission. 

Tomorrow we will go apartment hunting an hour away in Merced CA, and on Friday we have a move within Fresno.  This is the first batch of apartments I have had to find on my own.  So far, so good.  I can tell you, I definitely “pray over my flocks and fields!”  One town is really difficult, but at least the missionaries for that area already have a place of their own.  They just have a commute that wastes their time and gas.

Yesterday (Saturday) morning we went to the Fresno temple.  It is within fifteen minutes of our place.  Luckily, someone had reminded us that here one must make an appointment first.  It’s a lovely small temple, reminiscent of the one in St. Paul in some respects.  We were glad to be there. Like smaller homes, smaller temples can have a “cozy” feeling.

In Sunday School last week, the teacher gave everyone the opportunity to tell about an experience they’d had with the Holy Ghost.  The bishop told about a time when he was young and planning to marry, but he and his fiancée argued continually.  One day while they were arguing the thought suddenly and forcefully came to him that they should not be planning to marry.  He broke it off right away and always felt that was exactly the right thing for both of them.  Later, when he learned what the Holy Spirit was, he finally understood where that idea had come from.

His wife Gail told about when she had gone through losing her hearing.  It was a prolonged process.  Twice she heard a real voice counsel her.  The first time it said, ”You have to be patient.” After one effort to treat her problem began, she heard the voice tell her that the treatment was not the solution, but that it would come.  Two years later the technology for cochlear implants was sufficient for her to have one and she has been able to function well ever since.  She believes the voice she heard to be the Holy Spirit.

Monday, October 10, 2016

On the Move in Farm Country

Moving guys with their truck

The theme of this week was traveling around in the mission pickup!  We left at eight Wednesday morning heading to Porterville to sign a rental contract. The elders planned to move with the help of ward people, but then the man with the pickup and trailer had a grandson in the hospital in Fresno so the fellows needed our help instead.  It took an hour to sign the contract - the second time that’s happened. I signed my name or initials about sixty times!  Like buying a house! Anyway Brother Grant from the ward showed up and was crucial since he had a trailer, which we required to move the refrigerator, since it belongs to the church.  (Most apts have them but that one didn't.) We had no idea what do with the fridge and were trying to come up with contingency plans. It turned out that the new apartment had a generous, locked storage space behind the covered parking spot! Enough room for the fridge in case it is needed in that area again, plus plenty of space for the bikes. Many missionaries have to take their bikes inside the apt and keep them on a tarp so they won’t get stolen.

I saw a blue bird. Not like bluebirds we have seen other places. This one was larger, long-tailed, and white-breasted.  I have seen some around Fresno too. I looked them up and they are called Scrub Jays.  Also saw a couple of nice big pomegranate bushes/trees with beautiful fruit on them.  It’s great to drive through the farmlands.  They grow so many different things here — lots of kinds of fruit and nut trees, plus olives, so many grapes, cotton.  There are orchards of all ages.  I guess when the trees get old, workers go along with a rig and put a big chain around the trunk and yank each one out of the ground. There were also lots of large dairy operations, some with Jersey cows and others with Holsteins. Len noticed a “Land O Lakes” sign on one farm.

It’s fun to see new country.  We had to drop a bike off to an elder in Visalia so that took us through a couple more towns even though it was generally on our way back to the mission office.  We saw a truck full of newly picked oranges.  Then at the grocery store they already had clementines and they are big and sweet. That means we may be eating them for almost six months of the year!  It seems the season for clementines gets longer every year.  AZ stores had really small, tart clementines in November to start their season. The green grapes are also remarkably delicious right now.

Thursday we went north to Merced again, to empty an apartment that had had no missionaries for a few months and was being closed.  It was a smaller apartment (above a double garage) with some definite deficiencies.  The “stove” consisted of a hard-used double hot plate and a small microwave.  The bath was marginal with an undersize shower.  The entry was very cluttered with the member owners’ belongings. The stairway was narrow and steep. There was some charm to the old furnishings, and the windows looked out to nice views and big trees. One of the Merced elders who used to live there came to help.  Later I asked him if his new apartment was better.  He said, “Well, since we’re zone leaders, we need more room.  We sometimes have elders staying over night with us so we have two bedrooms.” I asked if his new kitchen was better.  He said it was.  The bathroom?  It was. What about the entry?  “Yes,” he allowed, “but I feel this place in my heart.” He put his hand over his heart. “And every elder who ever lived here would say the same thing!”  That was when I learned the value of living with kind members who help missionaries feel the love and encouragement of people who share their beliefs.  On the way home we passed a pair of white wading birds near the road in a lush green field. Ibis? Or possibly cranes/egrets, though I think the bill and neck were a little too short for those.  They were beautiful like the albino squirrels we used to see scurrying through the sun dappled deep green trees when we lived at Twin Oaks in Rochester.

Our Friday trip was to a place in Fresno to move furnishings to a new apartment.  Our faithful moving companion did not go Thursday or Friday.  We were able to get those moves done without the trailer and we had missionaries to do the carrying. Brother Bradshaw went with us on Wednesday but then his wife passed a kidney stone (her first).  They were up nearly all night, spending several hours at the hospital. We have known a couple of people who have gone through that and it always reminds me of the time Chad was listening to someone recount the experience over the radio when he was driving.  He said it got so intense he finally had to pull over.  Hopefully Sister Bradshaw is done with kidney stones. They sound awful.

On Saturday’s neighborhood walk, we passed a laden persimmon tree. There are many rose bushes here and they are still in bloom.  A canna lily beside our front door surprised and favored us with an orange bloom.

Perhaps the ‘sweetest’ of our duties is restocking the candy cart, which is always there for missionaries who stop by the mission office.  It has a few kinds of crackers and dried fruits, but mostly it’s candy.  There are peanut and plain M&Ms, jelly beans, Swedish fish, etc., but a few choices are truly yucky and sit untouched for weeks until some missionary or other stops by and takes half a jar.  Rare ones reach for the wheat thins or dried apples.        

Lots of love from Len and Kit

Monday, October 3, 2016

Everything Will Work Out

We love watching the change of classes at the beautiful old campus across the street. 

Transfer Week is now over!  It may be old news to a lot of you but it was all new to us.  Twenty new missionaries arrived and three left.  We were scrambling to be ready for them.  Wednesday morning at eight we went to the Stake Center for transfers.  Happily, there were many large old shade trees lining the parking lots. We were outdoors for a couple of hours and though a sweater was welcome when we began, the day was hot when we finished.  Over forty cars of missionaries lined up in an assigned order (a little like lining up at Southwest Airlines, but with cars).  Len was in charge of waving them on by prescribed groups to my side of the parking lot.  I sent them forward to a holding spot from which they were then waved into parking spots and told which car to move their belongings into.  Within a couple of minutes they gave the old companion a quick goodbye hug and drove off with their new one.    Twenty missionaries no longer had companions.  They were the ones assigned to train the new missionaries. 

While the trainers were being instructed, others collected all the new missionaries (greenies) at the airport.  When the new missionaries arrived at the mission office, everyone there was lining the walkway and cheering as they walked into the building.  We fed everyone a good lunch. 

President Clark had a greeting meeting with the greenies, and for a couple of hours after that each missionary met individually for five or ten minutes with: the mission president, the car/bike person, the mission secretary, the finance secretary (told them about their debit cards, phones, names tags, emergency kits), and the housing secretary (told them a few things about their apartments and supplies).

That night all the new sisters stayed at the mission home and the new elders stayed at the mission president’s assistants’ house.  The office staff had to shoehorn any work into the cracks of time between activities in which we were involved.  A couple of things we are having to learn are: how to use small bits of time and how to work amid chaos.

Thursday there were training sessions before and after another nice lunch we helped serve. Before lunch, there was a pairing ceremony where trainers and greenies got placed together. Kit and Len’s most notable activity that day was helping prepare the cultural hall sort of like Christmas morning.  After the last training session all new missionaries came in to find their own pile which had a bag of bedding, a bike, an emergency kit, mail from home, a supply of proselyting materials, etc.  Friday was a training day for zone leaders and sister leaders.  Lunch was provided.  We missed that one because we were out with the truck and trailer delivering the contents of two new apartments.

One of President Clark’s mottos is “Everything will work out.”  That has been his experience of leading the mission. I had already recognized what he is talking about when I was worried about finding an apartment or about being able to rent one I found.  So far everything has just worked out.