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Sunday, December 17, 2017


It really is hard to believe that today is December 17 and that Christmas is just around the corner! Time goes so fast we can hardly keep up with ourselves, our meetings and all of our responsibilities . Although it has been rainy for a couple of days the weather is definitely warm and on some days HOT. The sun can be very intense.

Since we are used to colder weather, snow, etc for Christmas it does not seem like Christmas to us. And yet the merriment exists and the decorations abound. It makes me happy to see that people are preparing for Christmas. I love the music and the trees. It is nice to see the Christmas banners and many decorations. 

We were in the city to see Elder Jenkins' eye doctor a few days back. This huge tree was the focal point of Martins Place. You can see just how huge it is as Elder Jenkins stands in front. We also helped a group of young school boys who wanted their picture in front of the tree.


Martins Place is a pedestrian street which is kind of cool. There are a lot of interesting buildings around that area and it seems like every time we are in town we find something new to see.

On the health front Elder Jenkins had a YAG laser procedure on his right eye this past week. Some time back he had cataract surgery but when he had the "water logged" cornea a few weeks ago a membrane grew over the new cataract lens. So the laser procedure has now removed the membrane and things are thankfully beginning go back to normal although his vision is not as good as he would like.

So grateful for good health insurance so we can just send in the receipts and have the medical expenses at least partially covered.

This interesting decoration inside the Queen Victoria
Mall which is a pretty high end mall.
Too pricey  for me but beautiful architecture.
If we had not been to Sydney on the train so many times we would have missed so many sights. But there is still SO MUCH we do not know about.

When we went back for a check up we found a great place for ice cream/sorbet. But we did not get it finished before getting back on the train so we walked to a bench in Hyde Park [I love this park!] to sit while we finished eating. 

The day was so great! Good weather, slightly cloudy and nice breeze. Perfect!! We happened to sit by a woman who was an Australian federal law enforcement officer enjoying her lunch time. We had a nice conversation and of course she wondered why we were in Australia, our accents immediately gave us away, and how long we would be here. That of course brought up our mission. She was a Catholic girl but was happy to talk to us. She was so dismayed that her 14 year old nephew had asked her "so, is Christmas when Jesus died?". She could not believe that somehow he had lived in a Catholic upbringing and missed the whole point of the Nativity, etc. We gave her a card that references the #Light the World initiative. Don't know if she will go to But there definitely are good references about Jesus Christ and His teachings.

I have been thinking a lot about Christmas. Since we are so far from home and so removed from our normal Christmas activities, I have been thinking more about what Christmas really means to me. Christmas is a time of nostalgic memories. Isn't it interesting how memories from so long ago come readily to mind? My mind is flooded with memories from my early childhood, from when our children were small and growing bigger, and from times when we began to enjoy grandchildren. Some memories are good some are sad, but overall they make me happy. 

Last week I listened as one of the Elders from our English class was practicing Silent Night for the Christmas Conference. He sang so beautifully it brought tears to my eyes. Perhaps that song means Christmas to me. I think that was the moment I really began to feel the 'Christmas Spirit'. How grateful I am for the Savior's birth. How grateful I am for the Savior and all He has done for me.

Life would have little meaning for me if I did not know of the Savior's love and the Plan of Salvation that allows families to be together forever. I am grateful for this time of year when we can all pause to remember Him and remember our Father in Heaven's Plan. All of the traditions and trappings are enjoyable - the music, the trees, the decorations, Santa Claus, etc. But what an incredible blessing it is to remember the true meaning of Christmas and the hope it brings into our lives!!!

Merry Christmas  to you all!!! We send our love and best wishes to each of you hoping that the true meaning of Christmas will fill your hearts and bring you JOY!

Looking out our office window towards
the temple.

We are looking forward to hugging some of our children and grandchildren in just two more days!!! They are coming to visit us for Christmas which will be such a special blessing and another great  memory! 

It has been interesting to observe the preparations for the Christmas lights around the temple and the campus. The displays changed this year necessitating  electrical lines being laid and relocation of various items from past years.

Many workers worked many hours over several weeks to put eveything in order. The lights  were lit 1 December and  tours have been happening several nights per week showing the diorama of the Savior's birth and the art work and a video. Literally thousands of people have come to enjoy the experience. 

Missionaries help with the tours and it will be our privilege to do so on December 24 and 30.

This photo of the Christus is right in front of the door
to the access to the art work and the video.

Elder Jenkins by the sidewalk that leads
 to the temple
The entrance to Buckland House and the mission office.
The red and green lights are in a mesh that is draped over
the bushes.

These lights face the busy Pennant Hills Road. The trees with
the white lights are interesting because they are little tripods
draped with green mesh and lights. Very effective!

I love this display of the Wise Men.
They look so realistic and a fence is around them to try
to prevent children from mounting the camels for a ride.

This diorama begins with the angel visiting Mary and telling her
she will bear the Son of God, ending with the manger scene.
There is a recorded message that tells the story complete with
singing by the Tabernacle Choir. It really is very lovely.

We took the time to walk around one of the first nights
that the lights were lit. At least 200 other people were
enjoying them as well. And what a great experience it was
 to greet many of the wonderful people we have come to know and
love, exchanging handshakes and hugs with them

It is hard to see Elder Jenkins in front of the Christus but he is there. I love this statue! It has been our great privilege to see it in the Visitors Center on Temple Square in Salt Lake City where it is displayed against the backdrop of the starry sky. But it has also been our great privilege to see the real thing in Vor Frue Kirke in Copenhagen situated at the end of a huge room surrounded by the statues of the 12 Apostles.  Remarkable as that was we probably enjoyed more the models of the same statues in the Thorvaldsen Museum also in Copenhagen. The museum had a special room dedicated to the statues. It was smaller and more intimate and we felt the reverence of the scene. Regardless of where we have seen it I am always moved as I consider the Savior and how my life is blessed because of Him.

Lot of lights with the temple in the background.

The simple white lights accent the beauty of the temple. What a great privilege it is for us to live  within a 5 minute walk of the temple so we can attend often.

These lights and this 'tree' are just outside of our office looking towards our window.


Our Senior Family Home Evening dinner was decorated extra nicely for Christmas.

Many of the senior missionaries helped set up these tables for the Christmas  Conference. All of the young missionaries from the whole mission gathered together and most of the senior missionaries also attended. Can you even imagine figuring out the food for almost 200 people including some very hungry young missionaries? Well our sweet Mission President's wife had it all under control. Pulled pork, meatballs, rice, salads, fruit and ice cream for dessert. They loved it. They also loved the chance to get together with past companions and renew friendships. There was training, special spiritual messages, pictures and even a movie to watch. The beautiful mission song was sung again which is so powerful with so many voices.

The senior missionaries and the sisters were served first.

Then came the Elders. Have you ever seen so many white shirts?
This is a picture of all the missionaries with a few senior missionaries missing. I copied this from the  Australia Sydney North Mission 2015-2018 Facebook page. There are other pictures on that page about the mission.

It is also the season of many concerts. We had the opportunity of attending the Hebersham Stake 'Carols by Candlelight' which was delightful. A stage was set up outside where we could view and enjoy the various musical selections from the different wards. This is one of the wards singing "Silent Night".

Many of the familiar Christmas Carols are also sung in Australia. Many of us  are familiar with the words  for Winter Wonderland. I thought those of you who live in the Northern Hemisphere might enjoy seeing how the words to this favorite song have been adjusted to the Southern Hemisphere. Just jump in and sing along...

I think the changes are awesome!
Just a random photo of the flower shop at the entrance of our Carlingford Court Mall. It always makes my heart happy to see the flowers and is a nice way to "stop and smell the roses" from time to time.

Sometimes the skies are stormy.

And sometimes it rains - really HARD!

Random shot going up the escalator from the train.

Looking up is a good idea because there are some amazing architectural treats to see.

Fourth floor of the eye doctor's office is almost in line with the State Library.

I don't know what these are called but I loved the leaf texture and the blossoms.

More of the same bush with the Ibis birds which fascinate me.
Just a lovely day in Hyde Park

Beautiful morning sky as we walked around the playing field.

Beginning of a sunset.

A stunning Sunset!

Saturday, December 2, 2017


Our trip to Narrabri mid November.
With a steady diet of the 6 lane traffic of Pennant Hills Road and lots of trips along the motorways it was delightful to have the opportunity of driving along the open roads to Narrabri. 

On Thursday evening we had a meeting in Maitland which is 2 hours north of where we live so rather than drive back home and then retrace our steps the next morning we stayed in a motel in Maitland which gave us a good start on our trip. The bed in our motel was super comfortable and we were well rested. But it was kind of funny when we checked in the night before that we had to walk through the restaurant & bar to the actual bar to register and get our key. Something kind of ironic about two 'Mormon' missionaries with our black name tags spending time in a bar. We got a few looks. 
Would much prefer to drive behind than in front.
 It always makes me nervous if they are behind me.

I alway like driving in the mornings. There is something about a fresh new day that makes me happy. The wide open fields, the clouds and blue skies are just what is needed for a road trip. 

The colorful police cars are always interesting for us to see. It seems the taxi cabs are very plain and nondescript but the law enforcement vehicles are brightly colored.

We stopped for a lunch break at Willow Tree. We spoke to a weathered man who was barely older than us but looked much older. He had lived his whole life in that area and gave us some interesting history. When we tried to give him a pass along card to look at the church website he confessed that he did not have a computer and does not know who to use one. It was strange to talk with someone so close to our age who was SO weathered and who really lived in a past era.

It was too early in the season to see the fields of sunflowers. Apparently that area is famous for sunflowers which are heralded by email notification of when crops are planted and when the best time would be to view the fields. The dry conditions this year have delayed the planting and ultimately the sunflower crop. But it would be awesome to actually see the fields of yellow heads.

A window view as we drove along.
There were lots of open skies and wonderful clouds and it was just a pleasant experience to drive along. The small towns are all unique. I loved the old houses and especially the interesting curved roofs.

I LOVE the clouds!!!
This house caught my eye.
Prior to leaving I had googled things to see along the way and had read about a lookout that was called "Who'd a Thought it". I found the name unusual and was delighted when I saw the sign for the turnoff. Since it was only 1 km off our route we took the time to stop. And what a delight! The views were absolutely amazing!! We could look out in all directions.

As we were admiring the view a young couple drove in to do the same and soon the young lady asked "Did you see this?" and pointed to a Koala bear sitting in the tree just above us. The coloring is so similar to the trees that we had not noticed him at all. And yet here he was just eating away totally ignoring us. He ate and then just closed his eyes and went to sleep. It was pretty cool.

Nap time after his lunch.
He blends in and we missed him before being shown where to look.
Can you see the koala in the tree??? Kind of tricky but he is there.
Surprisingly we did not see any kangaroos hopping along our way. But we did see over 2 dozen dead ones on the side of the road. We have been warned to not drive after dark because that is when the kangaroos are more likely to be out and about. Hitting one with our car would not hurt them much but would definitely be a problems for us.

Our road trip was not without interesting things along the road. The cattle  roaming freely in certain areas, large trucks with even larger loads, interesting plants along the way. We saw flowering cactus with red and yellow blossoms but did not have the opportunity to stop and get pictures.

Not worried about the cars at all.
At one point a car with flashing lights approached from the other direction. The 'Ute' [utility truck] in front of us immediately pulled over to the side of the road and we followed suit in time to see this HUGE load. It was a scoop which we theorized could be headed for the coal mines.
This huge load was a scoop and filled the road.
There are so many different kinds of trees and foliage and the landscape varies. In a long day of traveling we are treated to a large variety of sights.

Yucca plants were in great abundance along the roadways.
Huge tractors and other farm equipment were sighted from time to time. Then we drove past several humungous blue tarps. We could not fathom their use. But we later learned that they covered grain. Apparently the grain market is so low that the cost to ship the grain to market would be greater than any money the farmer could get for his grain. So, the answer is to pile up thousands of tons of grain, we assumed there would be a base of some sort, and then cover it with these tarps. This would be after the very large silos were already full.

Somehow it seems sad and wrong that there is hunger in the world and grain is being stored where it likely will be attacked by rodents and insects because it is too expensive to ship it to market. And how tough for the farmers who have already invested so much money to plant and harvest and now see no profit or even enough to cover their costs.

Two of many blue tarps we observed.

Huge grain facilities!

The roads are mostly straight with few curves.
It was nice to finish our 6 hours of driving and arrive at our motel. The next day we drove out to Moree for a Branch [small church unit] activity. There is a large swimming complex patronized by people from all over because it has artesian spring water. They have the very hot water pools where they only allow people to be in the water for 5 minutes at a time. There are also pools of mixed water which is pretty warm but not hot or therapeutic,  as well as pools with cold water. I love the sail awnings that are used so often over here to protect from  the sun's rays. But on this day they also protected from the drizzle and cooler wind. Many people enjoyed the warmth of the pool despite the weather. The water helps people with arthritis which is one of the reasons the pool  is so popular. I stood in the shallow part of the water with my bare feet and it felt pretty good. [No we did not bring our swim suits on our mission.]

We met a nice woman who was visiting from the Gold Coast just to come to the waters. She was amazed that we were here in Australia for 2 years and that we paid our own expenses to be missionaries. I guess she thought that maybe the church paid. But we do pay our money to the Church each month which makes arrangements for our flat and our vehicle. And of course we pay for our food, medical and other livings expenses. She also got a pass along card and she told us she would check out the website.

Part of the Moree Artesian Swimming Pool complex.
More amazing skies!
It was nice to meet the Narrabri Branch members in a casual setting so that when we attended church the next day we would not be strangers.  

They have their Sunday meetings in a Funeral home with a nice chapel and some nice space for classes as well as a kitchen. Including Elder Jenkins and myself there were 14 people at church, with 5 children. It had rained a lot the night before so the Branch President had to drive 2 hours to get to church instead of the usual 1 plus hours short way. The other couples had to drive 30 minutes, 1 hour, 45 minutes etc. to attend.

Elder Jenkins and I were there to be the speakers for Sacrament Meeting [worship service]. The Mission President assigns a senior couple to attend in Narrabri the 3rd Sunday of every month. We were grateful for the experience. It is always nice to rub shoulders with people who also believe in Jesus Christ and are willing to make sacrifices to attend church meetings. We spoke about self-reliance and how depending on the Savior is necessary for us to be truly self-reliant. After the meetings were over we ate lunch together before everyone dispersed to their homes. We went with one of the sisters to visit a couple of young mothers who had not been to church in awhile.  I think that only someone who has experienced living in a Branch can appreciate what it is like to hunger for association with other members of the church and to do what ever it takes to make things happen.

The sign is set out every Sunday morning just in case someone wants to come and visit. The angle is off so it is hard to see what is written but it says The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Visitors Welcome
I grew up in Branches in Alberta, Canada so it brought back a host of memories as we attended with these good people.

My story is that when i was 5 years old, my  mother, after 6 months of studying the Bible and the Book of Mormon joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We lived in Camrose, Alberta. Every Sunday my mother, my younger sister and I, along with another mother and her 2 children would meet together to study the Gospel. I remember coloring lots of pictures about Jesus and singing songs. Once a month some of the Priesthood brethren from Edmonton would drive the 1 1/2 hours to meet with us and administer the Sacrament.

To please my mother, my father  applied for a transfer to Red Deer, Alberta so she could be closer to other church members. Red Deer had a small branch. We met in the I.O.O.F. hall and each Sunday morning we would have to clean up the beer bottles and cigarette butts from the dance the night before so we could set up the chairs for our Sacrament meeting [worship service] and circles of chairs for our classes in the large open room. We were a small group and bonded like family. I have many fond memories of those times. They were also the times that forged my testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A few years later as our numbers grew we were able to have a chapel which was such blessing. There are many more members there now.

But there in Narrabri I was reminded again of those sweet times.

A beautiful home. This design is common in this area.

Narrabri Sunset!
And then it was Sunday evening. The sunset was lovely but I got kind of claustrophobic because we could not look out of our windows so we drove just a little way to try and catch the sunset.  It was almost too late but we caught this reflection of one of the LARGE trucks as it headed out for parts unknown. The big trucks do not have to worry about kangaroo damage as I am sure they are responsible for a large number of the dead carcasses along the way. These trucks have 8 axels with 4 wheels each plus the 2 front wheels. Kangaroos are no match for them.
Monday morning we started out early to head home by way of a different route. We spent 10 hours on the road with stops here and there which made for along day. But we were glad to see the many sights we saw.
A huge grain silo!

A beautiful view near Gunnedah.
As we left Gunnedah we saw again this collection of stuffed animals attached to trees on either side of the road. We decided it was worth the time to stop and take some pictures. There was no explanation of why the stuffed animals were there, we can only surmise that at some point a terrible accident took the lives of several people.

The tree by the Gunnedah signage.

On the other side of the road was another tree Elder Jenkins reattaching a few animals that had fallen off. I was worried about snakes but...
After stopping for gas we saw these four cars along the road. It appeared they are a club of some sort just out for a spin.  It was kind of cool to see them. I had to pass them one by one which gave Elder Jenkins a chance to take their pictures.

We enjoyed the scenery on this route less travelled. And yet there are people who live out in these remote areas. We wondered what it would be like in our life which requires so much connectivity.

And then there was this big, beautiful gate which I can only assume led to a lovely home out in the middle of no where.

Don't know if you can see the blue sign on the left but this is the Police Station. I think the town was Cooleh.

Interesting to see the solar panels in use. There is so much sunshine in Australia it only makes sense.

More cattle complete with a cowboy!

So, this was random. Just along the road we saw all the Christmas decorations. It is getting close to Christmas but I think these live here all the time.

And then there was a phone booth. I think this may be only the 3rd one I have seen while we have been here. It was just  along the road, sort of by a bus stop.

A lovely lookout just before Lithgow.
It was beautiful to drive through the Blue Mountains but we were running out of time so could not stop to take more pictures. It was a good trip and we hope we will be assigned to visit Narrabri again.

So, in our real life things have been crazy busy which is why I have not written in a month. There are always many meetings as we try to train our Stake Self-Reliance Committees about the Self-Reliance Initiative. It is always so exciting for us when someone "gets it" and understands the huge blessing it can be in the lives of anyone who gets involved in any of the courses. And it is sad for us when some people don't get it and miss out on the many opportunities that could help them and those over whom they have stewardship.

Elder Jenkins has bee struggling with his eye but it seems that the cornea has stopped rejecting. The rejection was manifest by the "waterlogged " cornea but it has been reversed.  He does however have a membrane which has grown over his lens following his cataract surgery  which needs to be removed. He is scheduled for YAG laser procedure on December 11 which hopefully will improve his eye sight. 

And we are getting old, at least it feels like it with all of our aches and pains. We try to exercise but Elder Jenkins is having issues with his hip. Tomorrow he will see the doctor to learn the results of his X-rays and ultrasound and we will go from there.

We often are exhausted in the evenings and I do not feel like cooking so we eat whatever or pick something up on the run. Not complaining it just is BUSIER than we thought we might be.

It is crazy to realize that we have been 9 months on our mission and it is December and Christmas is coming and it is starting to get HOT. Not sure I have wrapped my head round that yet.

But we have new pass along cards which point people to the website with ideas of how to give and make the world a better place over Christmas.

The other day we were waiting for a bus to take us to the train station to go to Sydney for the eye appointment. A Chinese lady began to speak to me by reading my badge. She explained that she was taking English classes using the Bible and was thrilled to tell me that should could understand me. I think our American accent is easier than the Aussie accent for some people to understand.

It was our first time taking the bus to the train station so I was a little nervous about getting it right. She helped us know when to get off at the right stop. But we had a good visit with her and gave her one of the cards shown here and also one that asks the question "does God really know me?"

She promised to check out the website and we hope it will be a good experience for her.

Central Train Stop

We took the opportunity to go to Paddy's Market with our friends and had to stop at the tie place. This vendor sells "Aussie" ties with kangaroos, etc on them. Most of the missionaries have at least one. And Elder Jenkins is no exception.

Lots of choices!
The Jacaranda are soon on their way out. But I could not resist a few more shots. I really love them and will miss them. But I can be comforted to know that many other trees and bushes and flowers are blooming.
Night time at the temple.

On the temple grounds.

Kookaburra on campus

This is just across the street from our flat. The day we were going to Sydney we could hardly tear ourselves away as we watched this 'tree monkey' go from branch to branch attaching ropes and then strategically cutting limbs. By the time we got home the complete tree had been removed. It was amazing.

Not a huge fan of spiders but he was there in his web.

Just something beautiful to see.

And again!
What can I say about the sunsets? They make me happy and I love the variety! I hope you can enjoy these as well!!

I will try to write again next week to let you know all the wonderful things being done here for Christmas. The lights turn on in 4 days, there will be tours and lots of cool things. AND we have family  coming to see us!!!