Len & Kit's Missionary Adventures in California

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Counting our Blessings

Here we are with the other senior missionary office couple, the Bradshaws.
Sometimes the big holidays spent far from family are the ones that make us most thankful.  Christmas spent singing to our troops in Germany long ago was the first such holiday.  Living in Kentucky while Len went to med school brought others.  Sharing the Thanksgiving feast with  missionaries like ourselves made for a happy day this week.  Our shared experiences and goals made us familiar to each other. We felt grateful for all the things we usually do, and there was much gratitude for the opportunity to participate in the work we now do, but the thanks we felt for family and old friends was heightened the more for being away from those we hold most dear. You don’t take for granted the people you miss.  But there will be other holidays and other feasts, and then we will cherish all of you even more because we missed you this year.  

We hope you can tell how much we like the people and the area of Fresno.  Usually our posts tell about new places and people in a happy way.  A several year drought is one of the problems the people here face.  We have had rain several days since we came and there is great rejoicing and sincere prayers of thanks in church every time.  Some of our experiences in the past couple of weeks brought greater understanding about the desperate need for water.

Two weeks ago, as we were driving around visiting missionaries northwest of Fresno, we saw a large orchard that had died before its time.  It didn’t take long to realize we were witnessing some of the consequences of drought and water allocation problems.  Last week we visited missionaries south to southwest of Fresno and the scene was repeated many times over. 

It hurts one’s heart to see once living saplings by the hundreds and thousands standing in leafless ranks, fruit and nut trees in their prime with still green trunks but dead or dying crowns. In one place a healthy vineyard flourished on one side of a road with collapsed vines of a blackened rotting vineyard across the way, demonstrating hard choices of watering some fields while letting others go.  We knew that the lives of the people in the houses we passed were diminished by the loss of so much time, effort, and money for the farmers and workers, in addition to the missing future produce available.  It was not so different from losses we have seen when wheat fields do not get rain, or when hail decimates the crop, but the less familiar crops in this area underlined all such tragedies.  Perhaps a tree that requires years to grow and bear fruit seems more like a man.

The carefully laid out orchards, so vast and beautiful in their strict geometry as we sped past the rows, reminded me of war cemeteries and lines from “In Flanders Fields”. We paid late Veteran’s Day homage to those who fought and those who died in war as we mourned for them and the trees.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow 
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

by John McCrae, May 1915

Monday, November 21, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

Since events in our mission are broken up into six-week cycles, I could pretty much copy from a six weeks old letter as far as many of our activities for each week.  The past week was once again filled with restocking shelves for zone conferences next week.  One order was over $700.  It’s really better to spend half that in two trips. 
You can see part of our supply closets in the photos:  Len orders, unpacks and gets lots of teaching supplies to the missionaries.  He has recently had requests for Nepali materials (there are pamphlets, but the Book of Mormon has not been translated into that language yet), Chinese scriptures, and a Braille Book of Mormon, which we had on hand.  One copy in braille requires a very large box.  
I (Kit) have a ton of household supplies.  You can see a box to the right of the picture.  We save up all empty boxes and bags for packaging up the various zone conference orders.  Next week, the closets will go from really crowded to rather slim pickins in two days time.

Our teacher in Relief Society told a good personal story. The lesson was on being charitable and she told about being treated charitably in an unexpected way.  Her son was preparing to go to BYU.  Just before he left, he went out for the evening during which he discovered he’d lost his wallet.  When he got home, he and his parents remembered back over his day and the conclusion was that he’d set his wallet on the roof of his car and driven off.  They spent hours looking for it with no result.  He left for school without a number of documents he needed to complete his enrollment, not to mention being sans his drivers’ license.

The next day our teacher received a phone call from a man who’d found the wallet along the highway.  Our teacher was ecstatic and wanted to come and pick it up right away.  As she and the finder talked, it became apparent that he had no address.  He asked her to meet him outside a particular store the next morning.

She understood the reason for the delay when the homeless man showed up – freshly clean, shaved, and carefully dressed.  He gave her the wallet, showing that the hundred dollars in it was all there.  They spoke for a few minutes.  He had been a local policeman who developed an addiction that cost him his job, his marriage, and his home.  She told him how important it was to her son to have his papers back and how much she knew he would want the man to keep the money.  The homeless man agreed that he had pressing needs for the money and gratefully accepted it. 

Our teacher felt humbled by the honesty of a man down on his luck who still did the right thing.  She felt her past notions about homeless people (who are commonly seen in Fresno) had undergone a great change and left her with far more compassion than she’d felt in the past.

One doesn’t have to look far to find people who have real need here.  I loved a couple of missionaries who knew just what to do when there were quite a few leftovers from a lunch and it was food that would not keep well.  They asked if they could have it all and took the boxes to the streets to give it to the hungry homeless people they see and talk to daily. They couldn’t stand to see waste, knowing hungry people!

Wishing you a meaningful and wonderful Thanksgiving! 
With love from Len and Kit

Monday, November 14, 2016

Parting is such sweet sorrow...

Looks like we’ve been here awhile now.  We discovered we had become well enough acquainted with one of the missionaries that we felt some pangs when he finished his mission and left for home.  He had many plans that he was anxious to set in motion upon his return, which doubtless made his departure less painful from his perspective.  Looking forward as well as back helps.  He also noted that being a missionary is an experience filled with goodbyes – every time your companion is transferred, even more so when you are transferred and leave the people you got to know and worked with, prayed for in addition to the loss of your companion with whom you’ve shared so much.  I guess you get at least partly used to it.  We’ll see.

Tonight we made three batches of cookies to bring tomorrow when we visit missionaries north of Fresno – eleven companionships.  We only spend a few minutes at each stop, to see if there are any issues with the apartments and encourage the missionaries.  We can see that these visits make a big difference in getting to know the missionaries and improving their apartment situations in some cases. 

Later in the week we’ll start emptying the shelves of Walmart again in preparation for the next zone conference.  We want to get most of the buying done early so we have a lighter Thanksgiving week. We’ll be sharing the day with our office companions, the Bradshaws, and some missionaries to Young Single Adult wards.  Other missionaries are usually invited by ward families.

Love for now,
Len and Kit

The November roses are amazing!  I’m seeing why they have the Rose Bowl during CA winter. 

And look at that white iris blooming its heart out.  I did some “drive-by shooting” this week — just through the open window while Len drove us our usual places.  I love this rose garden in the morning light, at a corner on our way to the office.   People also plant roses on either side of a walk so passersby can enjoy the fragrance.  I have seen groups of bushes with large bold red roses that seriously remind me of the ones that were being painted red in “Alice in Wonderland”.

The trees at dusk are cypresses and Norfolk Island Pines.  I have never cared much for cypress trees, but in Fresno they are spectacular mixed among all the other varieties.  I don’t remember seeing the Norfolk Island Pines (though I must have) except as potted plants.  Here, they are huge trees.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Mountain Adventures

On Tuesday we had our first trip up toward Yosemite to the city of Oakhurst.  It was great to be in the mountains!  There was better scenery than the photo shows, but we were concentrating on other things so didn’t get pics of the most beautiful and mountainous spots.  Len had to back the pickup with the enclosed mission moving trailer behind it down a hill into a driveway that sloped down in another direction.  He had to hit the narrow driveway that ran alongside the house without hitting the house or falling off the other side of the drive.  He nailed it on the first try.  So grateful for his experiences backing the manure spreader into the barn in his youth!  No experience is ever wasted.

That was our biggest move.  It was a two-fer where we picked up furnishings from an apartment that senior employment office missionaries just vacated in greater Fresno and took them straight to Oakhurst to furnish an apartment for senior Membership and Leader Support missionaries who will arrive next weekend.

The other photo is of the church/ward we attend on Sundays.  It is unusual architecture for an LDS building.   Somewhat dated but the members are very fond of it and they are a warm-hearted bunch of people.  We are glad to get to know them.  We have been participating in Ward Choir rehearsals since they restarted three weeks ago.

Here is an anecdote we heard from a recent Sacrament Meeting talk on the Holy Spirit:

I want to tell you about an experience I had as a young teenager. I was born and raised in Rexburg, Idaho - home of Ricks College and now BYU Idaho. For any of you that have had the privilege of being there during the winter, you understand how treacherous the driving conditions can be.
One particular winter evening on the weekend, I was looking forward to driving several miles out of town to a friend’s house who lived on a large farm. We had made plans to have dinner with his family and then retreat to the game room to play pool and watch a movie. The weather outside was fairly typical for that time of year as the wind was blowing 15 to 20 miles per hour and it was snowing steadily. After a minute or two of considering whether or not it would be wise to head out that evening on the roads, I came to the conclusion that sitting home bored was much worse than the possibility of getting stuck in a snowdrift in zero degree weather. In all honesty, I wasn’t worried and neither did my parents seem to be, (or at least they pretended not to be) as I had driven safely in much worse conditions. I said a prayer inside prior to departing, that I would be safe and a feeling of comfort fell upon me. I departed home and drove out into the storm and proceeded on my way without any problem.
Along my drive I saw only one other set of tire tracks, barely noticeable on the road as the new snow and blowing wind had covered the road almost completely. Every so often there would be a one to three foot barrier of wind-drifted snow that I very, very much enjoyed driving through in a sport fondly known in those parts as  “Drift Busting”.  Luckily the storm hadn’t been going for more than a couple of hours, since my vehicle was a old 1976 Ford Sedan with rear wheel drive, and busting through three foot snowdrifts were about its limit.
At around mile eight of a ten mile one way trip there is a small canyon where the country road cuts down along one side and then meanders through the bottom and goes back up along the other side onto the home stretch about a mile before reaching the home of my friend. I had all but lost sight of the tire tracks from the previous vehicle, but caught a glimpse of them momentarily before coming to the sharp turn that headed down into the small canyon. Just then, a thought popped into my head as I turned down the steep road into the canyon, “...what if the vehicle which left the tire tracks didn’t make that curve and ran off the road and down the side of the ravine?” I thought. I slowed down and thought for a moment and then decided that for sure that couldn’t be the case because No One in their right mind would be out driving in this weather... unless they were familiar with the roads and therefore wouldn’t make that error.  I continued on through the ravine and up out the other side within sight of my relaxing evening at my friend’s home. The thought then came into my mind again, only stronger and nearly like a slap to the side of my head.  I immediately recognized that the thought wasn’t my own. I carefully turned around and made my way back up to the other side of the canyon.  I was still convinced there would be nothing, but I had to show the “not so still and not so small voice” that in this case I was right.  I couldn’t see any tracks going off the road but I parked and got out of my car with a flashlight and pointed it down the steep side.  I didn’t see anything.  My thoughts then told me to climb DOWN the side.  “What?!” my thoughts argued back.  In tennis shoes?  “Yes, in tennis shoes”, the other thought replied.  So I did and about seventy-five feet down, there they were: taillights of a car that couldn’t be seen because of the snow flurries, until I was about thirty feet away.  I climbed down the rest of the way to the car and there in the driver’s seat sat a person, his head slumped on the steering wheel. I was nervous, but not scared and I tapped on the window when suddenly his head popped up and made me jump what felt like three feet in the air.  I’m still not sure who was more surprised. He turned out to be a boy, Timothy, about my same age, who used to go to school with me, but had moved to a smaller town thirty miles away. He had bumped his head fairly good, but otherwise was just fine. I helped him climb out and up the steep hill to my car, and then while driving the remaining distance to my friend’s house, he told me that his home life was chaotic with all kinds of fighting and strife and that he had stormed out and driven for hours before running off the road. All the while, I kept thinking in my head what would the result have been if I hadn’t stopped and this young man had been left to stay in his car feeling hopeless with temperatures that would have gone well below zero for the night. I felt very humbled.
Needless to say, my friend and his family were surprised when I showed up with an extra mouth to feed for dinner. There was even more adventure that night using a farm tractor to pull his vehicle out, among other things, but I’ve never questioned since that day how real it is and how important it is to trust in the Holy Spirit.