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Sunday, March 19, 2017


If it were not for the recordings of my daily journal there is no way I could remember what has happened this week! We are so busy and there is just so much crammed into each day that a week can seem like a month. A great month but a month nevertheless. We are learning so many new things, like riding the trains, navigating around town on the left side of the road with our NavMan [gps], learning the traffic rules, learning our assignment,  learning new words and getting accustomed to the accents. Not to mention being on the go all the time. There really is no set schedule, except for getting started early in the morning. Our schedule varies depending on meetings and what needs to be accomplished.

Last Sunday we went to the Leura Ward in the Blue Mountains with another missionary couple who are assigned to be there each week to support the ward. It is a small ward with only about 50 people as the normal attendance. It is an unusual building designed by someone who was not a member of the church. The Australians love it and in fact it even garnered some kind of architectural award. But it is not what you would expect a normal LDS building to look like. I forgot to take a picture of it but will do so next time we are out there.

This Sunday was unusual in that there was a baby blessing. The father of this couple is the only member of the church in his family and they had invited so many people to attend the baby blessing. The size of the congregation was doubled by the visitors. The talks were so great as they outlined the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a very plain and simple way. I love how people are so open and honest and joyful about the Gospel. It was an enjoyable meeting.

It is about a 90 minute drive on good roads but I missed most of the views on the way up since I fell asleep. I had been fighting a cold and was too tired to stay awake. 

at the park for lunch

After the Sunday meetings we went to a park to eat our packed lunch before they showed us one of the famous land marks of the area - The Three Sisters rock formation. 

Three Sisters

The story goes that the 3 sisters were in danger and a medicine man turned them into stone for their protection. But by the time the danger had passed the medicine man had died so they remained stone forever. Sad.

Three Sisters Closeup


But the images are impressive. And for only being about 3500 feet above sea level the vistas are amazing to behold. 

An amazing view of the Blue Mountains 

On our way back we heard a lot of history of the area. This couple is assigned to gather the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Australia and have learned so many things. They travel around and gather oral histories as well as artifacts from days gone by. 

On the way home the sun was very hot, beating down on the back window of the car, making it rather uncomfortable despite the air conditioning.  But the next morning I woke up without a cold so I think the heat knocked it out for me.

On another time when we have free time on a Saturday we will go back up there to get a better look at the sights and ride a tram which goes up and allows a better view.

Monday morning began the week calmly. I am including an entry from my journal: 

sunrise with pink rainbow
Having a balcony is one of life's luxuries! It is such a delight for me to step onto the balcony and see the wide expanse of sky before me.. I love the skies here. This morning the sun was rising and casting pink streaks across the sky. I suppose that means it will rain today at some point. But it was beautiful to watch. I could see a pink rainbow, both ends just not the middle. I have never seen pink rainbow before.

Then I noticed something very bright in the distance and wondered what it could be. I realized it was the moon slipping from behind it's cloud cover sinking into the west. It happened so quickly, in just a couple of moments. Lucky me to have seen it!

Soon the pink had given way to darker clouds and the sun was up though not visible behind the cloud cover. The birds have been cheerfully singing all the time. I doubt I will ever learn which birds have which song but their concert is lovely and feeds my soul.

Mr. Spider

tracks on the way to town 
passengers on the train 
 Then the day went crazy, we had to figure out how to ride the train to downtown Sydney so we could get there on Wednesday to give a Michigan test to a young Elder who hopes to enroll in BYU-H after his mission. [The Michigan test is an English proficiency test of vocabulary, grammar and reading comprehension.] It was impossible to find a parking place at the Epping station so we could take the train into town. So, we drove to the Carlingford station and could find only 1 parking spot and had to wait 45 minutes for the next train because it only comes once per hour. We realized we could not count on getting a parking space when we came on Wednesday so we took the advice of the station agent and drove to the Telopeo station where there was plenty of parking. We still had to wait 40 minutes for the train but at least we know we could find parking the next time.
the platform is so close
We rode the train to Clyde and then changed trains to get to Town Hall. The trains are fast and quiet and pretty comfortable. We use  our Opal card to 'tap on' when we get on at our beginning point and then 'tap off' when we get off at our final destination. There is such a mix of people who ride the trains. I believe Australia is the most diverse place I have ever been. There is quite a strict immigration policy here and they do not accept refugees but even so there have been many people from many countries who have immigrated here.
Liverpool Street with Hyde Park Church
Once we got off the train the fun started 😞We just plan got lost. The short walk from the station to the church building was not as short nor as easy as it should have been. After consulting maps, gps on our phone and people  in the street we finally found out we were going the wrong direction and had to turn around. By then I was not feeling well for lack of food so we stopped at a Kentucky Fried Chicken hoping to get some protein so I would feel better. Let me just say we got some protein but the KFC here is not up to the KFC that I treat myself to  once per year at home. I do not plan to have anymore KFC until I get home.
Finally, we found the building across from Hyde park on Liverpool street. The Chapel is on the 2nd floor with offices for the Family History Center and class rooms on the 1st floor. However since we did not have our keys to get into the chapel we just turned around and made our way back to the train station and returned home.
cute newlyweds placing a path of leaves

sign in the train station

sign in window showing location of the Church
Tuesday we sat in on an English class for some Chinese missionaries. Three of them were from mainland China and one was from Taiwan. All were preaching the Gospel in Australia but also learning English and were so sweet. It is amazing to me that the people in China are apparently now able to attend church services there. At one time it was not allowed and may still be somewhat restricted. All four of them and one other wanted to take the Michigan test on Friday.
We picked up a few groceries so we could have treats for the missionaries who would be taking the Michigan test. And I found a place to get my hair cut. It was $67 AU which kind of translated into about $50 US.  She did a pretty good job but it is a little on the sort side. I think I will like it better in a week.
It was kind of a hard day. There are a lot of things that go into the administrative part of this assignment and I found myself battling discouragement. There just is opposition when you try to do the Lord's work. But we keep trying and somehow things just work out.
Wednesday we left early to park for the train and then took the train to TownHall. We very quickly found the correct way to the Hyde Park Chapel and were early enough to get in and turn on the air conditioner before it was test time. I gave the test to a nice young missionary who was from Malaysia. He and his companion were happy for their treat bags.

Then we took a little time to eat our lunch by the reflection pool in Hyde Park. What a beautiful place!!! A worker was methodically pushing a broom back and forth across the tile of the pool to keep it clean. There were many people stopped for lunch. Some people were exercising. Several groups of school boys in their gray pants and blue shirts walked though the park to buy treats during their break. After the crazy rain the sun was shining and there was  slight breeze - perfect weather!
love the trunks!!
interesting birds

our lunch spot. The church is in the building behind the trees with the trees on top.

cleaning the reflection pool

love this trunk as well! 
this is just beautiful!

waiting to cross the street

looking at Sydney Tower

Elder Jenkins walking to catch the train

train platform

Our return trip was uneventful until we got off the train at our destination when Elder Jenkins noticed a barber shop. He needed a hair cut so went to ask how much while I went to the car. It was $16 or $13 for seniors so he went to get his hair cut. The barber did a great job but more interesting was the conversation that occurred during the cut. The barber asked if he was a missionary which of course he affirmed. Then when he found out which church he said that his pastor had told them that the Book of Mormon was a bad book. This man was from Iran and was a Baptist. Well Elder Jenkins talked for awhile and when the barber realized that we did in fact believe in Jesus Christ and that He had been crucified and resurrected and that we believed in the Holy Spirit and that we believed in a Father in Heaven his shook his head and said "it is the same". Then he gave the address of his own barber shop which is in another area so that Elder Jenkins can bring him a Book of Mormon so he can read it and find out for himself if it is a bad book or not.

Do you believe in coincidences? How likely is it that on this day he would be at his cousin's shop helping out ,it was the only day the cousin had an outside appointment and needed the shop covered,  that no one else would be in the shop when Elder Jenkins happened to stop in for a haircut and that they could have the conversation that left so many questions? Next week we will find his real shop which is in a nearby town and bring him a Book of Mormon in English as well as one in Farsi. Who knows what will come of that?
Thursday morning started out in a scary way. Elder Jenkins had an episode where he was disoriented and could not remember some key items. This occurred a couple of years ago when we were on Vancouver Island with some friends. After that experience he had extensive tests which showed he did not have a stroke but the doctor determined that it was likely caused by some movement of scar tissue from his brain injury in his car accident in 1998. He has not had further problems until now, but he was in tears and I was concerned so I immediately emailed our children and asked them to pray for him. They responded immediately and within a very short time he could tell that prayers were being offered in his behalf. During the day he continued to improve even though he has been a bit more fatigued than usual. Our children also indicated that they would be having a family fast this Sunday for which we are very grateful. We have a great testimony of fasting and prayer and feel that the Lord will bless him and us so that we can continue with our mission. Some days it just seems like we have a lot of opposition in accomplishing what is needed in our responsibilities here.

We had previously made an appointment for Thursday morning so we met for a couple of hours to teach a man who was looking for work the Accelerated  Job Search program. Then after a short rest we drove through a crazy rainstorm with our trainers 2 hours north for a meeting that evening with the Newcastle Self Reliance Committee. What a wonderful meeting! The doctrine of self reliance was taught by our trainer which everyone seemed to grasp quickly. It was so interesting and so exciting to hear the conversation of that principle be aligned with the self reliance program in the Newcastle Stake which is very large geographically. The problem of distance was discussed and solutions were found to make these programs available for everyone. Such a wonderful group of people who love the Lord and love the people they serve. Then we were back in the car for another 2 hour drive home.  
Thankfully the rain had stopped before we made it all the way to Newcastle and the skies were clear enough on the way home to see stars.  It was our first sighting of the southern constellations but it was too late to stop and star gaze.
driving out of the rain storm

Newcastle Stake Center

trees by the Newcastle stake Center

The skies are so beautiful here it just takes my breath away! this was taken out the back window as we drove towards Newcastle.

Friday we were off to give the Michigan test again. It takes about 2 hours from beginning to end so that took most of the morning. Then there were two other young Elders who wanted to take it so we set up an appointment after lunch because I turn into a grumpy bear if I do not eat. As those 2 missionaries were filling out the forms I realized I had forgotten to have the earlier 5 sign their papers!!! Ahhh!!! Then I had to figure out how to reconnect with all 5 of them and get their signatures. I won't make that mistake again!
Thankfully the office secretary could tell me how to reach the one missionary and she was seeing the others on Saturday and told me she would get the signatures when they met for a  baptism. There was a Chinese man being baptized who had been a communist official in China. He had read the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine of Covenants and  said he wanted to be baptized. There are may Chinese people who are finding the gospel and joining the church. It is amazing.

We were finally able to attend the temple on Friday evening. It was so nice to be in the temple again. It is so wonderful to know that the Gospel is the same through out the world.
Sydney Australia Temple
Saturday we tried to put some order into our flat. We hung some pictures and moved some things around and did laundry before we had to go meet that one sister for her signature. Then we went back to the grocery store to get more things for treat bags for more missionaries who will be taking the test and just more groceries. It was POURING when we came out of the store and we got drenched. 
After we put away our groceries we left for a meeting in the Greenwich chapel at 5 PM. Another great meeting with wonderful people who have caught the vision of what the Self Reliance Initiative can do for the people. How I love the openness these wonderful people! And then home and we were exhausted.
Today, Sunday we slept a little late and then had a great time face timing with one of our daughters ad her family! How we love our family. It has been a week where I have felt lonely for our family so it was great to see and speak with some of them. Then we were off to Church in another ward building. Even though the gps is pretty great we managed to misunderstand the directions and made a couple of wrong turns and then totally missed that the church was behind some iron gates and up a little hill so we arrive 5 minutes late. But we were in time to take the Sacrament and to hear some wonderful talks about the Atonement. What a wonderful gift we have been given by our Savior to have the Atonement to make things right in our lives and to help us return to our Father in Heaven! As one man said 'without the Atonement we have nothing and may as well just go home'. I am so grateful for my testimony of the Gospel of Jesus  Christ!
after yesterday's rain and this mornings clouds we have this!!!
So that was our week that seemed a month long. We have been so exhausted each night and fallen into bed. My numbers are much better since I have decreased my medication which is good news.
But I must not quit without talking a little bit about the traffic and driving rules. First of all it is hard to learn to drive on the left hand side of the road. It is hard to make a right hand turn without a light because that means we have to cross over the oncoming traffic lanes which are going the opposite direction you expect them to be going. Second there is SO MUCH TRAFFIC that it pretty much takes an hour to drive 20 Km. You just have to plan on it.  Were it not for our Navman there is NO WAY we could find our way around!!! 
Third, the speed limits are strictly enforced. It does not matter if everyone is speeding because everyone will get a ticket. But not from a policeman. There are cameras posted EVERYWHERE! If you go over the speed limit there will be a picture documenting your infraction. There is no appeal you just get a ticket with your picture to prove it. And the tickets are $100's of dollars. $500 is not unusual for a speeding ticket. It will just show up in the mail to the person to whom the car is registered. In the case of the mission cars the tickets come in at the $1000's because the church is a corporation.  When the individual who was driving is identified then the fee is dropped to the $100's and that individual is expected to pay up. Also driving in bus lane carries a high levy. You just cannot travel in a bus lane, which has red pavement, even if you need to turn. There will be a short space just before the corner where you can jump into the lane and turn. I suspect that I have a ticket coming for driving  in a bus lane because one evening coming home I went into the left lane to turn and then realized I was in a bus lane so jumped out - I forgot to look behind me so I am grateful no one ran into me- and then I got back in the lane to turn at the end of the red pavement. So I guess in a month I will have a several hundred $$$ ticket coming. Very stressful!!! And the speed limits are very slow. I am not a speeder but I think I like to drive faster than is allowed so I must slow down.
So, there it is for this week. I hope you enjoy the pictures. This is such a beautiful place!
and we found this cockatoo in the trees near Kmart. We also have some flying around our campus here. They sound like angry seagulls!!

Next time we will talk about learning "Australian" 😄

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