Monday, July 10, 2017

Week of July 3 - 9 (July 4th & end of mission)

Monday was our last day in the California Bakersfield Mission office. We gave Elder and Sister Stephenson a quick training and made sure everything was in order. Jayline and Grace came into the office to see what we have been doing this last year and say one more goodbye. It was fun showing them around. We had our last office staff meeting.
Elder Jacobson with us. Us with President and Sister Layton. Monday is their P-day and they forgot they had scheduled a staff meeting so they hurried over in their civilian clothes. Elder Porras with Elder Salvesen, Elder Jacobson, Elder Pena, and Elder Fry.
That evening they had a going away dinner for us at the Morris's; they called it the "Porras Pizza Party". Matt and Patti Morris have a pizza oven in their back yard that he built. We rolled out our own special Italian pizza dough and put on the toppings to our liking. The pizzas were yummy! After dinner we all shared how we came to serve a mission and what the most important things are that we learned. It was very inspirational.
It was after 10:00 pm when we got home. Elder and Sister Ball and Elder Stephenson helped us carry all our stuff out to the car and get packed up. We even had a few additional items than what we came with a year ago; a computer, printer, and TV. It was a miracle that we were able to fit everything in. As I was taking the last couple of things to the car our neighbor came out and asked me what we were doing. (Shawn, who is about 40, lives there with his grandmother.) I told him we were leaving in the morning to go home to Colorado. He was surprised and acted like he was really going to miss us. He told me we were so nice. He started asking about our mission and what we did. He asked lots of questions about the church. I had a Book of Mormon in the car, so I gave it to him along with a pass along card with Elder Bennett and Elder Bankhead's phone number. He thanked me and said he would read it. He actually had met the missionaries because they live about five houses from his mother.

Tuesday morning, July 4th, about 4:00 am we drove out of The Villas (our apartment complex) gate and out of Bakersfield, California. There were no fireworks, just twinkling stars in the sky.
We arrived in Salt Lake City about dinner time. We visited with Gayle and Rick, my sister, and ate a delicious, healthy dinner with them.
We then headed up to Logan with a stop in Clearfield to see Brad, my brother. It was very nice to see these siblings and catch up after being gone for a year. We saw fireworks light the sky from all the communities as we were driving along I 15. It was great to drive into Logan after being gone a year. Since it was so late, we just visited with my mom and brother, Rohn, for a few minutes before we went to Mark and Peggy's, my uncle, where we stay. Their little dog, Meggy, was happy to greet us also. We stayed in Logan two and a half days. It was so good to see my mom again. At 90 1/2 years old, she is doing amazing.

Wednesday morning when we walked out of Mark's house we were surprised to see some police action a couple of houses away. A policeman pulled over a car and told the guy to get out and get on the ground. The guy wasn't complying at first. The policeman was pointing his taser at him and yelling at him to get face down with his arms out. He finally did it. In just a couple minutes with sirens blaring three other police cars came to the scene. They handcuffed him and put him in the back of the police car while they searched his car. Soon a tow truck hauled off his car. Before they all left, one of the policemen came over to us and asked if we were okay. He said the guy had some warrants out for his arrest. They drove him off to jail.

We also got to see our oldest granddaughter, Sierra, who lives in Logan and check out her apartment. She is going to Utah State University.

As we were driving down Main Street in Logan one morning we saw an unusual sight; a mother duck and her ducklings crossing the road.

While in Logan, we visited the Logan Mission mission office. It occupies the former Seminary building at Logan Middle School. I attended seminary in that building about 52 years ago, and my grandpa, Alvin Harris, was the Seminary Principal. It was kind of fun walking in there after so many years. President Allred and his wife just happened to be in the office. We met them and the three senior missionary couples that work there. They told us they have an average of 60 baptisms per month. Also, there are about 65 senior missionary couples serving in the mission; one couple for each stake.
Friday after I took my mom to get her hair done and eat lunch at the Senior Citizen Center, we drove home to Parker, Colorado. James ate lunch at Fredrico's Pizza (his favorite place) with Sierra and her friend, Kyle, and Mark and Peggy. Sierra and Kyle left for Colorado about an hour before we did. Kyle lives in Fort Collins and Sierra's family lives in Castle Rock.

It was after 11:00 pm when we arrived home. It was kind of strange driving into our driveway and garage and walking back into the house after a year of being away. However, it was very nice and there is nothing like home. Tyson, the guy who lived in our house the past year, moved out and is staying at Troy's house for a month while they are on their European vacation.

Saturday we unloaded our car, got groceries, and finished preparing our talks for Sunday. Melissa, James's sister, got dropped off at our house Saturday morning. She was so excited to have us back! It is nice to be back in Colorado.

Sunday morning at 8:30 we met with President Lyman who released us from honorably serving a mission. We took off our name tags. It felt strange and like something was missing not to have them on. He asked us to share what we did on our mission and what we had learned. He told us that we will still see blessings in our family in the future that we will know are direct blessings from our missionary service.

We were the speakers for the Pinery Ward Sacrament Meeting. I talked on "How Service Brings Us Closer to Christ" and James's subject was "The Power of God's Love". We were able to weave in experiences of our mission in our talks. Bishop Hunter presented us with our mission plaque and welcomed us back. He said our ward was organized almost five years ago and we are the first and only senior couple to serve a mission so far. He said we have set a good example for all the rest of them. It felt like home being there with our "ward family". Most of our biological family were there also. Chloe's boyfriend, Damon, came with Tony's family. I told him it was nice to have a Chloe substitute since she is in the Dominican Republic. It was nice looking out on the audience and seeing our beautiful family and winking at some of our granddaughters. Troy's family and Janel FaceTimed us this morning from Paris where they are together. 
After church, everyone came over for a family potluck meal.
This has been a wonderful week of mixed emotions; our mission ending and returning home to family and friends! We feel very blessed to have been able to serve our mission and serve the Lord in that way. It was a wonderful experience that we will never forget and forever be blessed by!


Sunday, July 2, 2017

Week of June 26 - July 2

This week was a week of lasts; our last Tuesday-Sunday in Bakersfield, our last time taking James's white shirts to the cleaners, our last meal out in Bakersfield, etc.  We also finished reading the Book of Mormon for the third time while we were on our mission. In addition to that, we read it just before we came.

This week was a little cooler. The 100+ degree temperatures were not so high and there were even two 99 degree days.

Sister Breinholt and Sister Hutchinson brought in this bouquet of mums to thank their mission office  "mums" and "dads". That was so sweet! Elders Fry, Salvesen, Keeney, and Thunhorst showed up soon after, so we took a picture of all of them.
Monday evening we went to Family Home Evening at the church as usual. We had the tinest inkling something was up when we picked up Melva and she came out caring two plates of something, when we pulled into the parking lot and saw a bunch of cars instead of just a few, and when we went into the church and saw some kids running around and heard a lot of commotion in the gym. We saw some of the missionaries and went into the Primary room to help them set up the chairs in a circle like we usually do. Then all of a sudden they opened the folding doors and everyone yelled "Surprise"! A whole bunch of people with a table full of food and a big banner where there. We were overwhelmed! My heart was beating very fast and the tears came to my eyes. Everyone started shaking our hands, giving us hugs, telling us how much we mean to them, and how much they will miss us. Bishop Butler welcomed everyone there, a blessing was said, and they made us be first in line for the food. We had just eaten dinner, but thankfully we hadn't eaten much at home. The tables were set with real tablecloths and fresh flowers. Everyone enjoyed the meal and visiting. Then Elder Hulet took charge and asked Spencer Keller to bear his testimony. He just received his mission call to the Phillipines. Elder Thomason bore his testimony and then I and James did. After that the kids got to hit the piƱata. There were more hugs and goodbyes and "we'll see you Sunday".  (The lady in pink in between us shares my name. Each Sunday she enjoyed saying, "Hello Alecia" and I loved saying, "Hello Alicia" back to her.) 

Wednesday the Alvarez's invited us over for dinner along with the four Spanish missionaries in our ward. However, the missionaries did not make it because they were stuck in traffic coming home from the temple. Brother Alvarez was telling us how his mother got married after church last week. They had an appointment with the Bishop to talk about the arrangements to get married, but weren't planning on it right then. She just happened to be wearing a white dress. They were married before, but got divorced for financial reasons so she could get social security benefits from her previous husband. After the wedding ceremony, Bishop Butler asked Santiago when he wanted to get baptized. The missionaries had been teaching him, but he couldn't get baptized because they were not married. He said he didn't know and the Bishop said, "How about tonight?" So that is what they did. It all happened so quickly.

We went by the Assistant's house the other day so we could see where they live. It is a nice three bedroom house in a nice neighborhood. The living room is filled with bunk beds as well as the three bedrooms. Elder Bennett and Elder Bankhead use the family room for their bedroom. Arriving elders stay with them their first night in the mission and departing missionaries stay there their last night before their early morning flights home. The sister missionaries stay at the mission home with President and Sister Layton.

One day around 10:00 am as I was washing my hands in the bathroom at the mission office, I looked in the mirror and nearly scared myself. I forgot to put my makeup on. We had a lot of phone calls before we left that morning, and I guess I got distracted. I promptly went home and fixed the situation.

Friday morning was the last day of the boot camp Ingrid and I went to this month. It was not until we walked all the way to the park and I started to put my mat on the ground that I noticed I was carrying my purse over my shoulder. I never take my purse with me. I guess maybe I am losing it! After our rigorous workout, they had a little going away party for us with muffins and fruit. We gave them the little booklets, "The Way to a Happier Family" with a message and our names and phone numbers in the front.

Friday evening, we visited with Sonia and Eddie to tell them goodbye. Well, actually Eddie was called into work so he was not there. They are the cousins that Verenice lived with while she was here. They and their two boys are such a sweet family. The missionaries are still teaching them. Sonia gave us fresh peaches off her tree before we left.

Bakersfield has a "love locks" bridge. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw it on my walk Saturday morning on the river walk. The river walk is not like the River Walk in San Antonio, but it was very peaceful and pleasant along the Kern River. 

Saturday we finished taking stuff over to the Stephenson's apartment (the new mission office couple) before they arrived in the afternoon.
Then we attended a special baptism. John Sullivan who is about 75 years old was baptized by his returned missionary grandson. Missionaries knocked on his door about forty years ago. His wife and children joined the church, but he was not interested in their message. His wife has been inactive for many years. John saw the change  his grandson's mission made in his life and how his countenance changed. It made an impression on him. A few months ago President Layton was invited to an ice hockey game by one of the stake presidents. President Judd's father-in-law, John Sullivan, was also at the game. President Layton and he visited during the game. When they were leaving, John surprised himself by asking President Layton to send the missionaries by. Of course President Layton did and the missionaries taught John and he accepted the invitation to be baptized! Now he hopes that his wife will start coming back to church. She did attend his baptism.

Sunday Bishop Butler bore his testimony. Then with a little bit of a choked up voice he said, "I can  not sit down without thanking Elder and Sister Porras for their sacrifice to come on a mission and their service to our ward and members." James also bore his testimony about God's love for us and the love we need to have for others. James bore his testimony again in Priesthood Meeting. Nervously, I bore my testimony in Spanish in the Spanish Group Sacrament Meeting. A couple weeks ago I wrote my simple testimony down and had Jayline translate it into Spanish for me. James helped me practice pronouncing the words. Everyone told me they appreciated my testimony and understood what I said. There were lots of hugs and kisses after church again. It was hard to say goodbye to all these people we came to love.
The group leader, Brother Parada, his kids, and his parents. His parents are here visiting from Sweden.

After church we were invited to Jose and Irma Godinez's house for dinner. They had the Spanish elders over and some other members as well. We ate pombazos again. It is a dish that is very popular in Mexico. They made it for us another time. The drink was made with spinach, pineapple, and chia seeds. We ate outside on their covered patio which had misters cooling us off. They gave us a bunch of fresh avocados to take home. We took pictures and hugged again and said our final goodbyes.

Jose & Irma Godinez

Both Elder Solis and Elder Stewart gave James ties today. This is Elder Stewart wearing the nice, purple tie James gave him last week. Elder Stewart also has diabetes so he and Elder Porras have something in common.

Then we went to our second dinner at the Ball's house. They had us and the Stephenson's over. We got to know the Stephenson's a little and answer some of their questions about the mission.


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Week of June 19 - 25

This week was sweltering with temperatures in the 100's up to 112 degrees. Thank heavens for air conditioning!

Tuesday morning we picked Elder Cruz up at 6:30 am in Taft where he is serving. As he left the apartment he said "I love you" to his companion and the other companionship that were there. That was so sweet! We drove him to Sacramento for his noon appointment at the USCIS (United States Citizenship Immigration Services) to have his fingerprints and picture taken.  His mother also had the same appointment. We arrived early at about 11:15 and Elder Cruz was finished in a few minutes, so we waited for his family. At first, he just wanted to leave without seeing them. We told him that would be mean since they were expecting to see him. They arrived shortly after noon and it was quite a reunion. His mother hugged him and cried for the longest time. She didn't want to let go. He almost had to pry her off. His 17 year old sister, 12 year old brother, and 15 year old cousin were also there. After Elder Cruz's mother finished being fingerprinted, she said let's go eat. James was torn as to what to do, but finally decided it was the right thing to do and I agreed with him. We went to California Burrito nearby and enjoyed our lunch and watching this family interact. When Elder Cruz finished eating, he got up, sat across from his mother, put a very serious face on, opened up the Book of Mormon, and began teaching and testifying to his mother and family. (His brother is the only one who is a member of the church.) Elder Cruz talked about the importance of his mission and shared his testimony of faith, prayer, and the Book of Mormon. He read them some scriptures and invited his mother to also read and ask of God. It was powerful and is mother was in tears as she listened. She said she would. Elder Cruz wrote the steps of how to pray in the front of the Book of Mormon before he gave it to her and signed it, Elder Cruz, "your son". Elder Cruz told his brother to read the Book of Mormon with her. There were more hugs and we all said goodbye and drove off our separate ways.

Elder Cruz has been on his mission for four months. He barely knew any English before his mission, but now he can carry on a simple conversation quite well in English. He is learning English quickly even though he is on a Spanish speaking mission. Elder Cruz told us more of his story all those hours we were driving in the car. He joined the church when he was 14 years old in Mexico; only four years ago. A lady his mother knew introduced him to the church. He made good friends at church with four other boys about his age. On a trip to the temple, they promised each other that they would all go on missions. So far all but one are on a mission. A couple years later his father and little brother joined the church. His family was pretty well off with several businesses and land in Acapulco, Mexico.  The cartel kidnapped his mother and held her for ransom in exchange for all their land and businesses. After they got what they wanted, she was released and told not to report it or they would kill her. She was able to escape the country with her two children, but they lost all their earthly possessions. His mother was granted political asylum here and wears an ankle bracelet to track her whereabouts. It was hard, but they all did what they could and have been able to make it. Elder Cruz worked and handed his paycheck over to his mother. His mother worked several jobs. In the evenings, Elder Cruz and his little brother would collect cans and bottles for the recycle money. His sister now works at a restaurant also. It was a real sacrifice for Elder Cruz to leave his mom and siblings to come on his mission because he was basically the "man" of the house, but he knew it was important and that is what the Lord wanted him to do. His family has been blessed. The rest of the story. . .after the kidnappers released Elder Cruz's mother, they found out his father was part of the cartel. He is still in Mexico and doesn't really have anything to do with his family. Elder Cruz talked to him on the phone last Christmas and said it seemed like his dad didn't care how hard it has been on his mom and the family. We also talked about service and Elder Cruz said that before his mission he never really understood about service or the power of service. On his mission he realized the best way to get along with his companions was to serve them. He started ironing his first companion's, Elder Thomason, shirts. After a couple of weeks, Elder Thomason turned the service around and ironed Elder Cruz's shirts the rest of their time together. Now Elder Cruz likes to make food for his current companion, Elder Barney.

Last Wednesday morning we found out that the Stephenson's, the senior missionary couple coming to replace us and the Balls, wouldn't be coming this weekend as expected. Their 47 year old son died, and they left the MTC to help with the funeral arrangements. President Layton told us he suffered from depression for years and it got the better of him. We don't know if that means he committed suicide or if it had something to do with medications. Nonetheless, it is terribly sad. The Stephenson's said they were still going to come, but it will be a week or so later than expected. We were going to train them in our responsibility areas next week, but that is not going to happen now. We may have one day with them depending on when they get here.


Elder Bankhead and Elder Bennett

Elder Hatchcock and Elder Hulet

Thursday we took the Assistants, Elder Bennett (Pocatello, ID) and Elder Bankhead (Wellsville, UT), out for lunch. That evening we treated Elder Hulet (Cedar City, UT) and Elder Hatchcock (West Valley, UT) to dinner at Black Bear Diner.

Friday I worked with Sister Layton in the office for about four hours on the 2017 mission history. She was a big help because she can name all the missionaries really quickly. I have to label underneath all the pictures who is in them. I had gotten a lot of the zone conference pictures and other pictures off the CALBAK-Layton Facebook page where she posts them. We decided they were a little blurry, so we went thru and replaced them all with the pictures directly from her phone sent to the mission email. I want to have the mission history finished up through June when we leave so it will be easy for the next person to finish the rest of the year.

James has been calling all of the missionary companionships to tell them what their new monthly mileage amounts are, reminding them of the proper way to fill out their daily mileage reports, and telling them goodbye while he is at it. He has called about three fourths of them, but still has more to finish up.

Friday evening we took Ingrid & Bruce Ball out to dinner and they took us to the movie "Wonder Woman". 

Saturday we moved most of the furniture out of our apartment over to apartment #173 where the Stephenson's will live when they come. We only left the couch, our bed, some folding chairs, and a portable table for our computer. We are packing up our stuff, so everything won't be left to do at the last minute.

Saturday afternoon we went to a baptism for Robyn Rockwell. Apparently she was baptized when she was a child, but went  inactive for many years. She found the church again, but her records could not be located, so she was rebaptized. Her mother and sister and her family came from New Mexico for the event.                                        (Sister Manning played her flute.)

Saturday evening we attended the baptism of Craig Davis who is almost nine years old. His mother and his other five siblings are the ones who live in a hotel room.

James gave a talk in the Spanish group Sacrament Meeting today on "Our Responsibilities as Members of Christ's Church". He has gotten more fluent in Spanish since we have been here because he has been using it quite often. James has been able to use his language skills to benefit the mission. He is the one we all turn the phone over to if someone calls or we need to call someone who speaks Spanish. He has been able to help the incoming missionaries who do not know English understand what is going on, get settled, and answer their questions. President Layton asked us to be the ones to take Elder Cruz to Sacramento this week because James speaks Spanish. It has been a real asset to this mission. In general, James has the gift of being able to talk to people, motivate them, and make them feel good in any language. The Balls, Elder Morris, President and Sister Layton, and others have commented on his connection to people and how he communicates with them. Sometimes James feels bad because he cannot write very well and does not read or write Spanish. However, we happened to read a couple verses of scripture recently that made him realize many great men were better in communicating verbally than in writing. We read in 2 Nephi 33:l ". . . neither am I mighty in writing, like unto speaking; for when a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men." and in Ether 12:33 Moroni says, "And I said unto him, Lord the Gentiles will mock at these things, because of our weakness in writing; for Lord thou hast made us mighty in word by faith, but thou hast not made us mighty in writing, for thou hast made all this people that they could speak much, because of the Holy Ghost which thou hast given them."

We gave away two Book of Mormons this week. One to Charlotte and Alan, our neighbors, who like to sit out on their patio in the mornings and read. The other one was put in The Villas club house library.

After the baptism on Saturday, Elder Stewart commented on James's nice purple tie and said he really liked it. Well, James took that tie to church today and gifted it to Elder Stewart.


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Week of June 12 - 18 (Father's Day)

We worked at the mission office all week as usual and had things going on almost every night.

Monday night was a going away party at the Bishop Butler's back yard and pool for the Farleys who are moving to Idaho. We stayed for awhile and then went to Family Home Evening at the church. There we watched a video on "The Plan of Salvation" and discussed it. Then we played "Signs".

Tuesday after work we met the four Spanish speaking Elders from our ward at Hodel's Country Dining to treat them to dinner. It was Elders Thomason, Stewart, Solis, and Atkinson.

We attended the Bakersfield Zone Conference on Wednesday. All four Bakersfield zones were in attendance, so it was a pretty big group. President and Sister Layton focused their teaching on "Faith to Find". It is important to focus on faith instead of fear. When we obey and are all in, our faith grows. Obedience brings blessings, which increases faith. God provided miracles in the Old Testament days to the help the people of Israel gather to a promised land. The gathering of Israel in these the latter days is the culminating event of the world, so we should expect guidance and miracles from God. Several missionaries shared their favorite story from the Book of Mormon that is an example of faith and miracles. We learned that faith involves action, doing, and work. 

Wednesday evening we ate dinner with Elder Solis (Chile) and Elder Atkinson (Hyrum, UT) at Melva's house. She and her mother fixed foods popular in their home country of Panama. We had empanadas filled with ground beef, yucca, potato salad with peas and beets, rice and chicken, cantaloupe and papaya. It was all very delicious. After dinner, we took Melva and her mother to the hospital to visit Nilka, Melva's sister. She had been in the hospital since Monday afternoon with a bad infection in her intestines. She has to be really careful with health issues since she had a liver and kidney transplant eleven years ago.

Thursday afternoon, Nilka was released from the hospital and I picked her up and took her home. They do not have a car. On my way back to the office, I had an accident! I was making a U-turn in the middle of the street and a car came out of nowhere and hit our car on the passenger door on the driver's side. It was scary and left me shaking. I don't really know whose fault it was, but we think it was the guy in the other car. Thank heavens, he was very nice. We exchanged information, but did not call the police. The side of our car has some pretty good dents, but since VW is buying our car back in less than a month we won't be getting it fixed.  His car did not have much damage. We'll see if his insurance company contacts us.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Friday night was date night! We double dated with Tim and Nancy Layton to Outback Steak House where we had a good dinner and conversation. All of us except President Layton had changed to our casual clothes. He said he only likes to get dressed once a day.

The first heat wave of the summer started on Saturday with a temperature of 103 degrees. Bakersfield will be in the 100's (up to 113) for at least the next nine or ten days. That is all the further my phone shows. We beat the afternoon heat by watching two movies in the nice air conditioned movie theatre. We saw "My Cousin Rachel" and "Megan Leavey". Then we drove the thirty minutes to Weedpatch to see what is left of Weedpatch Camp. It was built in l936 to house migrant workers during the Great Depression and later farmers who came during the Dust Bowl looking for work. These migrants were known as Okies and were discriminated by the locals. The plight of the Okies and a description of Weedpatch Camp were written about in John Steinbeck's book The Grapes of Wrath. There are only three buildings remaining from the original camp; the community hall, the post office, and the library. The Weedpatch Camp continues to assist and house migrant workers.

Sunday was Father's Day. James enjoyed all the calls from his kids and grandkids and being spoiled more than usual!

The Staheli's from our home ward were in Bakersfield yesterday and were hoping to see us. They left  a message on James's phone, but he didn't see the message until today when we got home from church and they were already in Los Angeles. Darn it! Their son, Jonathan, served in this mission a couple years ago and he was showing them around Bakersfield and the other areas where he served.


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Week of June 5 - 11

Family Home Evening this week was about the price our Savior paid for us. He went thru pain and agony to pay the price of atonement for each one of us, and it is up to us whether or not we accept his offering and sacrifice. It was an object lesson that made an impression on everyone. The price of having a donut was 5-10 pushups. Elder Solis agreed to do the pushups for each person who wanted a donut. Even if you did not accept the donut, he still did the pushups. It was a fun activity to make a great point! We also had birthday cake to celebrate Hillary's 22nd birthday.

Ingrid Ball and I started Boot Camp again this week at the park. It is on Tuesday and Friday morning for four weeks. Everyone is young mothers except for us, but we are holding our own. On our walk back home the other morning my foot kicked something on the sidewalk. I looked down and saw a metal object. I picked it up to see what it was, and of all things it could have been, it was a kids CTR ring!

Guillermo Alvarez from our ward and Spanish Group has taken an interest in helping James with his family history. He loves being a family history detective especially in Spanish records. He has spent hours looking thru baptismal and marriage records on line and has found a few of James's ancestors. He found Victor Porras's (great-great grandfather) baptismal record which has his parents names on it. That was exciting! We took him and his wife, Miriam, out for dinner. Miriam is from Guatemala. They have twin daughters and seven grandchildren. The one daughter's family lives in Texas and the other daughter's family is in Japan with the Navy. We are so lucky to have most of out family nearby! He showed us this five generation family group sheet he made on leather bought from the area of Mexico where he is from. It is about 4 ft X 6 ft. Pretty impressive!
Saturday morning we attended Bakersfield Stake 4th Annual Pioneer Picnic at Pyles Boy's Camp next to Lake Ming. Thankfully, it was an unusually cooler day (75 degrees). They had all kinds of fun pioneer activities like; rope making, hatchet throwing, leg wrestling, stick pulling, marbles, stilt walking, and gunny sack races. There was a continuous program on the stage; pioneer ancestor stories, singing, skits, dancing, and cello playing (Jayline). We even went on the stage with a few other missionaries that were there and some young people soon to leave on their missions to sing "Called to Serve". There was also had lots of good food; scones, watermelon, beef (wrapped in foil and burlap bags in the ground on top of smoldering ashes and covered in dirt for about 15 hours), baked potatoes, and pies. We took Sister Hall and a couple of her six children home after. Someone else took the rest of the kids. Their "home" was a room in a rundown motel in a rough part of town. It made you want to cry and certainly count your own blessings.
Later in the afternoon we attended the baptism for 17 year old Max Walden. His twin brother, Matthew,  was there to support him. He is also taking lessons from the missionaries. After Max was baptized, he talked for a few minutes saying how he has been blessed since he first walked in the church and felt the spirit there. Max and his brother live with their grandmother who is blind and has many health problems and their two little cousins who they take care of. He said it was one of his little cousin's birthday and they didn't have any extra money to celebrate, but somehow they were blessed with some money to have a little party for him. They were so happy.


Sunday, June 4, 2017

Week of May 29 - June 4 (Memorial Day)

We have passed by this house many times because it is across the street from Sound Waves where we have the Tiwi's installed in the new mission cars. We always noticed the memorial they had and wondered what it was all about, so on Monday we stopped to take a picture of it. It is quite an impressive, permanent memorial to the armed forces.
Monday, Memorial Day, we welcomed 7 new missionaries to the Bakersfield California Mission. Five of those missionaries flew into the airport from the Provo MTC at noon and the other two came from the Mexico City MTC and did not arrive until about 3:30. We fed them lunch (Chinese sundaes, rolls & fruit-watermelon stars & blueberries and strawberries) and gave them their orientation.
 That evening, after the other two missionaries had arrived we had dinner at the Mission Home with all of them.
President & Sister Layton, Elder Moon, Elder Pitcher, Elder Spunagle
Hermana Ruiz, Sister Reed, Sister Pankratz, Sister Willyerd

Monday later in the evening, we went to Family Home Evening at Hermana Medina's house. Monday was a big day!      

The next day we made lunch again for the new missionaries, their trainers, and the departing missionaries also. There were 32 of us. We had our standard baked potato bar, sweet potatoes, salad, and fruit.         

That evening we had dinner again at the Mission Home with the 6 departing missionaries who leave early Wednesday morning. We had Chinese food in honor of Sister Kuang. Actually, Sister Kuang is from Taiwan. She gave us a lesson on how to use chopsticks and the proper way to eat the food. The lone elder going home is Elder Markwalter from Missouri City, Texas. His grandmother is not a member of the church and was very opposed to him going on a mission. She tried to talk him out of it by saying he was making a bad mistake and he should focus on his schooling. He invited her to church to hear him give his talk before he left. After the meeting, she told him, she now understood why he was going. Well, about a year later he sent the missionaries to visit her. On Saturday she will be baptized by her grandson, Elder Markwalter!    

Wednesday evening we attended West High School graduation to see Grace and Jayline Martinez graduate. Grace is the valedictorian and Jayline is the salutatorian in a class of 393 students with only three hundredths of a point separating them! Grace gave the "welcome". We sat by Philip and Karla Lewis, my Logan High classmate, who were also there to support the girls. Karla is their cello and violin teacher. Both of the girls received some more scholarships, so now they have enough grants and scholarships to cover their first year at BYU with some left over for the next year. Grace, Jayline, and their mother were on the early morning KGET news. It was a nice story about twins graduating at the top of their class, their love for education, and how they have inspired their mother to get an education also.

We met  a very interesting, nice man who was sitting in front of us at the graduation. Mr. Grasso will be 100 years old in August! He was pretty spry getting right up several times so people in his row could get in and out. His mind was sharp as a tack and he loved to talk. He served in World War II. He started smoking at 14 and quit at 65 only because it was getting so expensive. He worked until he was 90 when his kids made him quit. He drove until he was 97 and his kids made him stop. He said that was okay because he knows his reflexes aren't quite what they used to be. He worked as a cement contractor all his life. He recently was asked and put up a flagpole at an elementary school near where he lives. He is pretty amazing and looks like he has quite a bit of life left in him!

Friday many of the elders who came into the office were sporting flower ties. I commented how pretty they were and I was reminded it was "floral Friday". I took a picture of Elder Kent and Elder Werrett when they came in to bring their monthly mileage report.

On our P-day Saturday morning, we got up early and left at 6:00 am for a day trip to Death Valley National Park. The park is about four and a half hours from Bakersfield. It is one of the hottest places on earth and holds the record for the highest recorded temperature in the world of 134 degrees on July 10, 1913. It has mountains that are about 5,000 feet high and also has the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level at Badwater Basin. Only about eighty-four miles to the east/southeast is Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States at 14,505 feet.  Death Valley National Park has sand dunes, salt flats, minerals, volcanic rocks, colorful mountains, etc. It was stifling hot! At Furnace Creek Visitor Center it was 113 degrees about noon. It got up to 118 degrees a few hours later. Wow! We drank a lot of water as was advised. In several places along the road we felt like we were on a roller coaster ride with all the dips. It was kind of fun. We really enjoyed seeing another part of this beautiful world that was created for us to live on.
High on the mountain straight ahead of us we could see a big sign "Sea Level". It was kind of weird to be so much below that. 

President Carter, our stake president, was at our Spanish Group Sacrament today. After the meeting, he asked James if he could translate for him in temple recommend interviews. James said yes, and he did three of them. That was a good experience for him since it had probably been twenty five years or so since he had been a branch president and had the opportunity! President Carter thanked us for our service and wished us well in case he didn't see us again before we go home.