Len & Kit's Missionary Adventures in California

Monday, February 27, 2017

He Shall Have Music Wherever He Goes...

February 25th Saturday afternoon walk in Fresno.  Within the next couple of weeks many people will take a drive (a couple of hours) on the ‘Blossom Trail’.  It is a route that goes past many orchards in the height of spring bloom.  We are so glad we had meetings around the mission this week so we could get an idea of the glory of spring in CA Central Valley. Rosebushes are putting out lots of new leaves and the snapdragons and pinks that were planted in our apartment complex for winter color are bushing out, with various colored poppies now blooming too.  There are yellow and orange wildflowers in the ditches along the highway. A good season to be in Fresno!

When we were preparing to move to Scottsdale, we made several trips to AZ and while there, attended our new ward. One time there was a special music number where the men were called up from the congregation and sang in unison a hymn they had never rehearsed. We were shocked. Shortly after we moved into the ward, Len was asked to provide a men’s quartet special music number – “unison would be fine”. Of course they rehearsed and they had four-part harmony. The ward members thought it was great and the men loved being part of it too. In a few months the ward music chair asked the men to sing once a month and more voices were added as a 3-4 part men’s choir. It was wonderful!

When we moved and changed wards, Len was called as choir director and had men’s choir and women’s choir numbers as well as entire group pieces. It was no surprise that when he helped Sister Clark prepare the men for their parts in special mission choir numbers for December and January, he also laid the groundwork for future men’s choir numbers. He had the elders run through a beautiful hymn at the end of practice and invited Sister Clark to come listen to their “audition” so she’d know what he had in mind.

This week we had zone conferences in Porterville, Fresno, and Merced. In each case, Len had a men’s choir practice for 30 – 45 minutes before the meeting began, a 4-part men’s choir number ‘Brightly Beams Our Father’s Mercy’. He had done his homework. He kept track of all the elders who had sung in Dec/Jan and talked to every new elder that entered the mission to find the ones who liked to sing. Len invited President Clark to sing baritone with him in the group and got a commitment. He texted invitations to all the known singers and talked it up at every apartment we visited and to elders who came into the mission office. He made calls to be sure the strongest singers would be there to lead their section, and supplied music to those who wanted to practice on their own. He asked President Clark to put invitations and reminders in his weekly mission letter. Time-wise, the rehearsal was the small part of the project.

Everything worked out very well. The performances varied, but were all really good. The first group was largest, with the strongest high tenor section, the second group was fervent and most powerful on the deep bass of this hymn, and the last group had a sweet sound and was stellar on the double pianissimo final chorus. The hymn’s message applies perfectly to missionary labors and serving others.

Let The Lower Lights Be Burning

In the mid 1800s Philip Paul Bliss was directing the singing for a series of services being conducted by the well-known preacher Dwight L. Moody. As he closed his message, Moody told the story of a boat that was trying to reach a harbor amid a treacherous storm. The ship’s captain could see the lighthouse, but the lower lights had gone out. The captain attempted to land anyway, but missed the channel and crashed the boat into the rocks, losing many lives to a watery grave. The message of the hymn is, “The Master will take care of the great lighthouse; let us keep the lower lights burning.” That was all Phillip Bliss needed to write one of his best-known hymns, “Let the Lower Lights Be Burning.”

          Brightly Beams our Father’s Mercy OR Let the Lower Lights Be Burning

          Brightly beams our Father’s mercy from His lighthouse evermore;
          But to us He gives the keeping of the lights along the shore.

          Chorus: Let the lower lights be burning; Send a gleam across the wave!
          Some poor fainting, struggling seaman you may rescue, you may save.

          Dark the night of sin has settled; loud the angry billows roar;
          Eager eyes are watching, longing for the lights along the shore.

          Trim your feeble lamp, my brother! Some poor sailor, tempest tossed,
          Trying now to make the harbor, in the darkness may be lost.

Lots of love from Len and Kit

Monday, February 20, 2017

Weathering Life's Storms

Soaking in the beauty
This year, spring in Fresno began on Valentine’s Day.  I say that because it is when we first saw trees in blossom.  Most of the trees flowering this week are white. We had three wonderful sunny days between rains in this “wettest in 100 years” winter season.  As we left the office one of those late afternoons, a pair of zone leaders were sitting in the bed of their truck beneath one of the glorious trees abloom in our parking lot.  It was deeply peaceful as they quietly waited for others while soaking in the beauty of the fading light.

After the terrific sunshine break, we are back to forecasts of daily rain for more cloudy and rainy days, with occasional sunny respites.  The moisture is such a great blessing to a parched state, but it is too much of a good thing in some areas by now.   Fresno seems to be all right for the most part, although as I was putting in an order for electrical service, the woman with whom I spoke said she had unwittingly driven into a puddle that turned out to be “three feet deep” resulting in totaling her car from water damage.  A Fresno native, she kept repeating, “This never happens in Fresno!”

The main effect on us at the moment is making plans and counterplans for getting all our supplies to the three zone conferences next week.  We may have intermittent showers rather than steady rain some days, but we can’t count on putting stuff in the open pickup for hours.  Life is full of challenges and opportunities . . .

Last week in Relief Society our lesson included a discussion of the question, “What habits and behaviors help you look forward with optimism in spite of day to day challenges?”  Of course, scriptural passages about “being of good cheer”, prayer, righteous living, service, etc. made up a large part of the conversation.  There were also shared experiences that offered pragmatic helps.  Here are several ideas I liked: 

The teacher said that in her youth she learned a quote by Robert Louis Stevenson, “There is no duty we more underrate than the duty of being happy.”  For a significant period of her marriage, her husband was troubled by mood swings and depression, which ultimately abated.  During the hard years she remembered the RLS quote and accepted being happy as her duty. “My kids deserve a happy mother and they’re going to have a happy mother!”  She worked at it and learned to be even-tempered in spite of her husband’s difficulties.  She is a very upbeat person and no doubt her determination to be that way has been a great blessing to her entire family and contributed much to her successful marriage.

Practice gratitude: The more we give thanks for what we have, the more aware we become of our own rich blessings. Some women spoke of keeping gratefulness journals which helped them feel joy.

We can only be happy when our actions are on the same level as our beliefs.  So if we believe one thing but do another, we will not be happy.  “No one can serve two masters . . .”

Flat Stanley
We had a visitor show up for the past couple of weeks.  Flat Stanley.  If you don’t know him, Google his name or look him up in Wikipedia and you will see he’s famous.  He was very easy to have around; doesn’t say much and eats even less.  He was always amenable to go anywhere we wanted.  However, it did take time to show him this area and what we do as missionaries.  (Hence this blog post covers two weeks.)  Stanley travels first class by U.S. Postal Service and is on his way back to Colorado.

Wishing you a happy week!

With love from Len and Kit

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Unexpected Blessings

I want to tell you about another missionary who serves here.  His story is truly unique.   His family lived in Serbia and the father earned enough money for them to come to the United States for a family vacation when the boy was between ten and twelve years old.  His mother was pregnant, but still considered safe for travel.  Nevertheless, while they were in the U.S. she gave birth.  The baby was born with a serious condition that was treatable in the U.S., but not in Serbia.  The baby’s problem was repaired, but the doctors told the family that the baby needed to stay in America for seven years before returning to Serbia.  Suddenly the vacation changed to immigration.  Somehow some members of our church became involved in helping them.  Shelter and other necessities of life were provided.  The father got a job of some sort and the children went to school.  The family began to participate in the church of the people who helped them through their trial.  Over time they understood and believed the gospel and joined.  So now the Elder is one of our most gregarious missionaries and a brother has also served a mission.  The father stopped by the mission office last week to drop off packages for his son.  The family does not live in California, but somehow his work brought him this direction.  One could see that the son will look much like his father in process of time.  The dad’s expansive smile was impossible to resist.  We felt privileged to meet him.  He did not ask to see his son.  He only chuckled to himself, no doubt thinking how surprised the young man would be to receive some Serbian food and whatever other treasures were in those heavy boxes. 

We emptied two apartments this week.  The rain is back so Len identified a three-hour window Friday morning when we could load up an apartment in the Fresno area and get it unloaded into the storage before it started sprinkling.  That was really trusting the weathermen!  It worked perfectly. 

The second apartment was scheduled for Monday, but with rain predicted for the next five days, we decided to go Saturday – on our preparation day.  It was a beautiful sunny day (save for heavy fog for half an hour where we went as slow as 30mph for awhile) and we were glad to have that chore done.  The apartment was rather difficult to clean and the two Elders (young male missionaries) who agreed to help us were fantastic.  Working together made what promised to be dreary work into a fun morning.

The elders face cleaning out the refrigerator.  True heroes!