Len & Kit's Missionary Adventures in California

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

God Be with You Till We Meet Again

You can compare the living room of these missionary office elders with how it looked at the beginning of our mission.  The elder standing is at the end of his mission, helping until the rain stops and he can get to Texas.
Here is our bedroom, rearranged for the office elders.

The past three weeks went quickly.  It turned out that a new apartment was needed for the transfer week of August 29-31, which we had not anticipated.  Fortunately it was in Fresno and with both Kit and her trainee applying themselves full-time, plus lots of prayers, we were able to find one which would work well within two days.  Then we had to allow seven business days for our application to be fully processed to be certain of it. The missionaries who will live in the apartment had to room with another companionship for five nights. They will move in tomorrow.(Tuesday).  

Surprisingly, all the moves we wrote about in the last blog actually helped us get ready to leave.  In order to send all our furniture to Auberry, we had to empty all the drawers, which helped us organize our belongings for packing. To have a place to sleep and to put our displaced things, it was necessary to move in and set up the missionary furnishings. Very efficient! 

There were endless lists and every day on our way to work or to home, we were stopping at a store, picking up and dropping off items at the office or storage, but in the end it all dovetailed nicely.  Rather than deferring our own move to the last, much of it just seemed to happen along the way.  We never had to lose a bunch of sleep and we drove away within nine minutes of the leaving time we planned on Saturday to drive to our Utah home via Las Vegas! 

Mixed in were lots of loving farewells between us and the many missionaries and others we came to know and love during the past year.  We even found time to partly process what the year has meant to us.  We are very grateful that we were able to go and be a tiny part of work that is meaningful, important to us, and clearly needed.  It is both humbling and personally rewarding to be engaged in the effort to help people live better and happier lives through coming to know and follow our Maker and our Savior.

So, here we sit. The dust is settling.  We have hugged some of our posterity, heard of their adventures, and caught up on their current doings.  Before Friday we will see other dear ones here, put away everything we brought back, and repack for the Montana leg of our post mission rounds.  In another six weeks we will wind up in Arizona to renew our love and friendships there, and then to set new goals and make plans for how we can reach them.

We wish you happiness and peace in your lives,
Len and Kit

Monday, August 14, 2017

On the Move

There are now significant changes occurring in the mission and they affect us.  The senior missionary place we looked for in Auberry is a reality and will be ready for occupancy in a couple more weeks.  The Rusches, who hoped to be Member and Leader Support missionaries but were reassigned to the office to replace the Bradshaws, will be Auberry MLS missionaries by month’s end.  Today (August 14th ) they will begin training their successors who will be young missionary elders!  That is a common model church-wide and President Mackay is ready to implement that in this mission.  Our sons Ryan and Scott and our son-in-law Nick all spent time as office missionaries when they served.   Like us, I think all of them worked in the office during a change of mission presidents, which happens about the first of July every third summer. They continued to find and teach people in the evenings in addition to their office responsibilities during the day. 

We have begun training the Marcoms to temporarily take our places.  They are MLS missionaries who live near the office.  They will be the bridge between us and the Tardiffs, who plan to be here about the end of September.  They were originally set to be here within two weeks of our departure but then back surgery was needed so the convalescence is going well but has slowed them down.  The Marcoms training is moving along well and we appreciate the willing help they provide while learning.  They really go the extra mile.  The picture is of our big shopping trip to restock our shelves for zone conference and beyond.  We spent just over one thousand dollars and the young man with us helped get the six carts to our cars.

So our next door neighbors will move to Auberry and the Tardiffs will move into that apartment the end of September.  The furnishings from our apartment will go to Auberry on Saturday the 26th and we will move furnishings for four elders into this apartment.  It will be the home of the office elders and then the ones they train to take their place will share it whenever training is going on.  We will see what it’s like to live like they do for our last few days here!  Crazy!

President Mackay asked to have missionary choirs sing a song he loves for last week's Zone Conferences. Len asked the Sister missionaries to sing since they have not had as many opportunities as the Elders.  Since the song was written in unison, Len made up a simple harmony which Kit added to the music.  It all went well in each of the three conferences.  A number of the Elders were bummed that they didn’t get to sing with Elder Gunderson one more time.  They really loved singing in the men’s choirs.  That was true in our ward, too.  They sang today.  They could actually perform other numbers quite easily with the talent in that group, so hopefully they will.

Love from Len and Kit

Monday, July 24, 2017

One of the missionaries from our Scottsdale ward, to whom we have sent letters for nearly two years, is about to return home.  Here are some comments he wrote in a June email to friends, “So this week was a great week.  I don’t think I have been this tired since the first few weeks of my mission.  I have been thinking a lot about what (Grandpa) has emailed me about how my last few weeks here are like the final push of a race.”   Considering that we are finishing soon ourselves (and that we also know his grandfather), those words have much meaning for us, too.

We made it through Transfers last week quite well!  It was probably the most difficult week our new couple will ever have here since she had so much paperwork to do for each missionary who was leaving as well as the ones who were coming.  It was also her first time to fly solo on making up the various rosters, which help us keep track of everyone.  He appeared calm as he helped ship old bikes home, get bikes for the new people and keep track of all the cars, gas receipts, oil changes, mileage reports, etc.

One senior couple was evacuated from Mariposa for most of the week because of a huge fire in that area.  It is still not a certainty that the threat is completely past, but they hoped/expected to return to their apartment yesterday. 

We planned to take a bus tour of main Yosemite Park sites on Saturday to check that off our bucket list.  However, heavy smoke in Yosemite Valley (from the Mariposa fire) led us to cancel.  Instead we spent the day enjoying giant trees and rushing rivers in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, further south.

We also got a lead on an acceptable apartment in Auberry. We began that search in May and it should finally close August first.  We thought our apartment hunting days were behind, but there is still a couple that would do well to be replaced or at least upgraded somehow before we leave.  Rental apartments are just so sparse at the moment.

I am including an anecdote from final remarks made by a departing missionary, as far as I can remember and reconstruct from my notes: 

I am SO glad I have been able to finish my mission!  Things did not go well for me at the beginning and I often thought about going back home.  One day, as my trainer/companion and I were biking to an appointment, a truck swerved toward me and honked.  I lost control of my bicycle and crashed.  The impact was great enough that it somehow tore the pocket right off my shirt.  Of course I was banged up, too.  I was just lying there on the ground, hurting and completely ready to give up. After a minute or two, my trainer simply said, “Get up, Elder Rust.  Put on your name tag.”  How could I put on my name tag when the pocket had been ripped off my shirt?  He spoke again. “Get up Elder Rust.  Put your name tag on and get back on your bike.”  Slowly, I got up. Somehow, obeying those words helped create the resolve I needed to face whatever other adversities came, and see my mission through and I am so grateful!  My mission has absolutely been the most important experience I ever had in my ENTIRE life!  I know my Savior lives and that is everything.

With love from Len and Kit

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Time for Changes

This week the change of mission presidents went very smoothly.  The other office couple will leave July 13, so there is a lot of change happening.

At each of the two zone conferences, the arrangement of “God Be With You Till We Meet Again" was beautiful and poignant.  There were so many missionaries participating in the choir that we were all jammed into the choir space singing for the few left in the audience. At both buildings Len was just an arm’s length away from some sopranos.  At the second zone conference, two of the sister missionaries were so emotional even before the song began that Len had to make a serious effort to focus on his conducting.    

We were all sorry to see President and Sister Clark go.  It was especially fun that we were invited to spend Saturday evening with the Bradshaws and Clarks,  playing games and relaxing.  It was a real treat.  For my contribution to the evening’s snacks I made white chocolate popcorn, which everyone enjoyed. So glad I knew how to make it.  Thanks, Whitney!

Yesterday President and Sister Mackay arrived.  The Clarks took them to lunch and then brought them by the office to meet all of us and look around.  The Clarks "drove off into the sunset" and the 
Mackays stayed for a short chat.  They will also be wonderful.  Very easy to know and love.  After they did their first training of zone leaders and sister trainers today, they spent half an hour with each office person so we (and they) are quickly becoming comfortable together and feeling comforted that everything is going to be all right.

Love from Len and Kit

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Mission Adventures

You don’t go after your golf balls if they wind up in the ocean at Pebble Beach Golf Course. Too much undertow.

There was a wonderful temporary jellyfish exhibit at the Monterey Aquarium.

No swimming suits on the beach that day!

Last weekend we drove over to Monterey.  In best times, the drive is supposed to take around 2 ½ hours.  Summer weekend traffic increased that about an hour, but we were not on a tight schedule.  While there, the 17.5 mile driving tour with lots of stops along the Pacific coast and by Pebble Beach golf course was great, and the local aquarium was very worthwhile. So nice to need a windbreaker for part of Sunday in Monterey with temperatures in the 50’s in early morning, combined with a chilly ocean breeze. Conversely, we had a 40 degree change in temperature on our return to the San Joaquin Valley (Fresno) Sunday afternoon, with temps topping 100 as the widespread hot wave began (highs of 104-110 last week and 95-99 this week, which was nothing compared to AZ.) Kit enjoyed Monterey style architecture and the beach houses too. The LDS church there was constructed of adobe style blocks instead of brick.

We have done all the shopping and finished packaging up all of the zone conference materials today for the two zone conferences on Tuesday and Wednesday.  The Clarks will finish their 3-year assignment this week and turn the reins over to President Mackay and his wife who will be in charge of training meetings on Friday.  The Mackays will tour the mission with the Assistants to the President next week.

We have long known that missionaries who serve in foreign countries often have to renew their visas at intervals during their missions.  The process can require a train trip and overnight stay or other major effort depending on the laws of the country where they serve.  Geographically small countries are often easier than large ones by virtue of distances.  We don’t know what the process was for missionaries from other countries who served in the United States decades ago.  It can certainly be a big deal nowadays.

For example, there was a missionary for whom the office personnel had to gather a lot of information, such as several specific photos of the person at the apartment where the missionary lived plus a copy of the lease and proof of rent payment for that apartment, in addition to other financial minutia.  It reminded me a lot of the movie Green Card.  

At times it can even be necessary for someone to travel to a city where there is an embassy of the country of origin in order to renew a visa.  We have had to go to similar lengths on occasion in our preparations for travels to other countries.  Mainly that involved having our host provide us with contact information so we could arrange with a travel business to go to the designated spot and “walk it through” in our place.  In our mission, getting necessary paperwork has even led to a cross-country bus trip.

Another thing about missionaries from other countries that was recently emphasized to me is that missionaries who come from grinding poverty adjust to life here but then return to the places and conditions from which they came.  I know that sometimes the proficiency they have achieved in English and knowledge of the U.S. can help them find job opportunities to improve their lot.  Too, they no doubt find that there are values and experiences in their own places which are more desirable than part of what they encountered in this country. Of course there are those who live in higher socio-economic conditions in their country of origin than they do while here, but insecurity about life’s necessities must be terrible for some who return to dire poverty.

Happy Independence Day!
With Love from Len and Kit

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Good or Bad? You Be the Judge!

At last week’s transfer, 5 elders and 1 sister completed their missions and 6 new sisters began their missions.
Weather is quite tolerable, highs of eighties for a few days – way better than AZ’s unrelenting heat by mid June.

For a long time now I have been contemplating what it means to have good judgment and how we can learn or teach good judgment.  Partly, perhaps mostly, my musings over years are the result of recognizing that no matter how many birthdays I celebrate, I sometimes still fail in matters of judgment, though hopefully less often and less egregiously.  Being on a mission has provided additional material for consideration since I am around a great many young people who, in spite of their commitment, idealism, and good intentions, have plenty of opportunities to exercise poor judgment.  I have spent time on various websites over months trying to gain insight about why people make poor choices.  Here are a few ideas I have gathered, mixed in with my own thoughts.

Judgment is the evaluation of evidence to make a decision.  Judgment is being able to weigh your opinions accurately. Good judgment translates information into knowledge, enabling you to find patterns and predict meaningful events.

There can be a big difference between making a decision and making a good decision.
Good judgment uses the process of critical thinking whereas poor judgment does not.
Best judgment can also involve praying for guidance to do what is best.

“Critical thinking” means being able to apply logic to make your decisions regardless of other’s opinions. It includes:

  • Identifying a problem /challenge/ situation
  • Discriminating between fact and opinion
  • Identifying personal, family, societal values that conflict with the problem/challenge/situation.  This is where moral and religious/spiritual values can also play a big part.
  • Listing possible solutions and their consequences. Counting the cost: “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?” Luke 14:28 KJV
  • What I call “Critical Thinking Plus” is making personal prayer and inspiration a part of the process. NOTE: Prayer has been recognized scientifically as positive and useful in various situations, particularly health related.
  • Taking a defensible position based on both logic and inspiration.
  • Counting the cost seems to be one of the hardest things for the young: recognizing that footballs are not good indoor toys, that you will run short if you don’t budget your money, that driving infractions can have consequences, etc.,etc.

Responsible behavior means being liable; taking responsibility for one’s actions, behavior, belongings, space.  Responsible behavior is not the cause of maturity; it is the result of maturity. Doing what needs to be done when it needs to be done, whether you want to or not, is a sign of maturity. 

Obedience is one kind of responsible behavior, but it depends on whom you obey and your reasons for obeying.  For me, understanding and obeying the Judeo-Christian ethic upon which our government and laws were based, including faith in  God, is key.  Recognizing and acknowledging that our actions affect others and caring how our actions impact others is a step up to morality.  Giving service to society is the highest level of responsible behavior.  Choosing to serve others is doing the right thing for the right reason i.e., because it is who I am, or because it is the right thing to do.

Good judgment means considering risks and consequences and weeding out decisions that may cause harmful or disastrous consequences. When we are able to make a conscious decision whether or not to do something that is harmful or helpful to us and to others, using good judgment can improve the quality of our lives and the lives of those around us..

The way we individually look at things, our attitudes, also impact our judgment.  We must learn to know ourselves: Is it important to us to be right thinking, decent people, or not?  Do we concentrate on details or the big picture? Do we pay more attention to possible risks or rewards? Do we follow our intuition or rely on facts?  When we are aware of our inner biases, we can overcome them or at least control them.  To have great judgment, we must learn to take responsibility for our mistakes and change instead of being in denial by blaming others, ignoring or distorting the facts.  We must nurture qualities of learning from our mistakes instead of repeating them, and of being open and teachable when we recognize truth.

Hopefully I can draw personal conclusions that will help me when I am tempted to resort to poor judgment!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Two weeks have sped by since the last update.

The men’s choirs for Zone conferences May 6-8 were all good sized and sounded great singing, ‘I Need Thee Every Hour’. We were invited to stay all day at the Fresno conference.  After lunch the missionaries were divided into groups of about 8 plus a pair of seniors.  The companionships took turns explaining some facet of the gospel in their own words, using at least one personal example to illustrate what they were teaching.  Ours all did a great job.  It was especially great to hear their personal anecdotes.

Last Saturday we went to a grove of sequoia trees near Yosemite that the Bradshaws knew about. We thought about going to Sequoia Park but there were several days with highs in the 20s there and some snow during the week. In addition to the enormous venerable trees we saw, we also caught sight of some bright red things popping out of the earth close by.  We thought they must be fungi.  A quick search on the information highway identified them sarcodes sanguinea, Snow Flowers.  We were glad for the opportunity to see them since they are limited to high mountains of the western U.S. for a couple of months after snow melt.  They feed off fungi that attach themselves to the roots of large trees.  Weird, eh?

Last Sunday our Ward Men’s Choir performed in Sacrament Meeting - a 4-part (TTBB) number, ‘Brightly Beams Our Father’s Mercy.’  We had 12 singers involved, plus Kit as pianist, and got lots of compliments.  Singing in and listening to a men’s choir was a new experience for many.  They have already been invited to sing again next month.

Observations from our travels:  Monday’s apartment checks were in Porterville, our farthest zone to the south.  Highway CA99 is the major artery we use.  For many stretches of road there are 10-12 foot hedges (mostly oleander) that are blooming now – many tints of red, pink, and white – beautiful!  Rivers are high from hot temperatures melting the still considerable snow pack in the Sierra Nevadas.  We pass several large dairies on our route.  Holsteins are most evident, but also Jerseys, Guernseys, and maybe some Brown Swiss.  There are lots of trains around here, too.  They often specialize in types of cars.  Often there are container trains.  We have seen some short cars that may be called “mill gondolas”, according to my search.  Much grass in the hills and along the highways has been ripe for a month.  There was already a big fire near Coalinga.  It has reached 100 degrees several times by now.  It is not unusual to see umbrellas used as parasols.

Len’s knee is coming along well.  He saw an orthopedic surgeon Tuesday morning and had x-rays that helped us know we should continue with the current treatment plan (rest, ice, compression, elevation).  He will begin walking a modest amount when it gets healed a little more.  Since exercise has been markedly reduced, Len has stopped sampling the missionary treat cart in the mission office.

Stacie and Nick stopped by on Tuesday to take us to dinner and spend the night.  It was a great treat to have them here and do some catching up!  They went on their way Wednesday after breakfast, listening to Cannery Row in preparation for a day in Monterey.

Kit is now trying to replace some of the oldest or worst apartments.  There are also some we have had for a long time that owners are improving.  There is at least one place Kit is trying to improve in a town where the rental market is incredibly tight.  We are taking some inexpensive drapes there tomorrow.  I think every housing coordinator wants to leave all good apartments as much as possible. 

Have a great week!
Love from Len and Kit

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Mother's Day Thoughts and More

Not long ago Len and I recognized that we’d had little to no illnesses on our mission of which less than four months remain.  We shouldn’t have said that.  I have long maintained that when you are young, something happens, and you get hurt, but as you get older, you can just be standing there and you get hurt.  A week ago Saturday our neighbor joined us for a short walk after Len had already done his usual brisk half an hour.  After a few minutes Len took an ordinary step and suddenly his knee hurt.  He limped home and iced it, which he has been doing several times daily -- plus using heat once a day, sleeping in the recliner, taking Tylenol, resting, elevating it, and using a knee compression support.  A project! It is improving but it is time to have it assessed and find out what the cause is and what else might help so he will be able to get back to his normal activities.  It is true that the knee did give him a warning within the last month by way of complaining when he arose from a kneeling position one day at work.  He iced it a day or two and thought that was the end of it. 

Len is getting better at directing the young missionaries to do more of the lifting, and planning smaller orders so book deliveries will fit on our two carts where they can wait until some young elders are around to unload them.  It appears that some recent changes will reduce the need for as many big moves in the next few months.  It will all work out.

FOR MOTHER’S DAY here are some cuttings about becoming a mother from an article I read online today, and liked:

I had just graduated from the university and my husband and I were in limbo.  One night my Dad offered to let us move in to the old cabin built by his grandparents.  The offer was totally unexpected and strangely enticing.

The cabin sat on 40 acres of woodlands and pastures.  The closest grocery store was 30 minutes away.  Just a month after we moved in, I found out I was pregnant.  For me, the experience of pregnancy was one of sudden, overwhelming confinement.  For the first time in my life, I was wholly accountable to my body, to an experience both inside of me and yet unfolding entirely independent of me.  For the first time, I was truly restricted in what I could do, eat, experience, and for the first time my focus was intensely, almost suffocatingly, interior.

In a way the cabin held me just as I held my baby.  Constructed for harsh pioneer life, it sat steeled and sturdy against the changing seasons.  It got so little light that I could sleep upstairs for 14, 16 hours straight, awaking dazed as if from another life.  It created a stark contrast of interior – home, incubator for family life – and exterior: wildness, a terrain for roving and exploring and seeing.  It taught me how to come into my motherhood in quietness and focus.

The cabin reinforced that liminal period of pregnancy, and then, when my baby was born, it strengthened the surreal, otherworldly, extraordinary and boring experience of infant care.  All mothers are at somewhat of a remove, physically or psychically, during this period, and the cabin made this manifest.  I lived in my own universe of milk and diapers and squalling and tall summer grasses and tiny breaths and wood and blessed sleep in quiet darkness.

The cabin allowed me to blend with the world and to live apart from it.  I stepped outside and walked through the woods with my baby snugged to my chest, listening to her little squeaks and hums, and I sat inside at 3 a.m. and noon and 6 p.m. in the perpetual dim and nursed, and all of it felt the same and utterly removed from any sort of life I’d lived before. It was the most heady, distinct, beautiful, unique experience of my life.       

That’s it for this week.  With love as always, Len and Kit