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Friday, July 28, 2017


This Saturday morning I am sitting in the Cedar Lodge Motel in Armidale, NSW with the sun streaming in the window as I write this blog. It is a chilly 1C [barely 32 F] but the skies are clear and it is a beautiful sunny day. Elder Jenkins says this is the coldest July he has ever experienced. But then it is winter here. 

This is the third weekend in a row that we have travelled into the Coffs Harbour District to visit branches to present a MyPath Devotional, which is an introduction to the self-reliance initiative and the various groups available.

In case you do not know what a "Branch" is, let me explain. There are members of the church living all over the world. When there are enough members in a geographic area to create a  ward [usually over 200 members], one  is organized to provide a structure for the members to meet together to worship. A ward will provide a Sacrament meeting [worship service] every Sunday as well as meetings for the children [Primary], Sunday School instruction for young and old, Mutual for the young men and young women,  Relief Society for the women and Priesthood meeting for the men.  However, when there are only a few members of the church, maybe only 30 or 40, who live in a large geographic area, often separated by hundreds of km it is not possible to have all of the programs. There may be only 2 or 3 children or just 1 or 2 teenagers so modifications are made to best serve their needs. This is when a branch is organized which always has the Sacrament service but does not always have all the classes available for the other meetings. Sometimes the branch members all meet together for Sunday School, etc.

I spent many  of my growing up years attending Branches in Alberta, Canada. We often did not have our own church buildings so would hold our meetings in a rented building. In Drayton Valley it was the scout hall. In Red Deer it was a I.O.O.F. hall until we grew large enough to build our own church building. There is a closeness that grows between the members of a branch and I have many fond memories of the people I grew to love. So I have enjoyed this opportunity to attend these branches and can relate to the conditions of trying to make things work with few members.

But the message of self-reliance is for everyone so we try to bring the information to these remote areas. This initiative will truly bless the lives of those who participate.

We have travelled on Fridays and Mondays so we would have enough energy since the trip is at least 6 hours each way and we just do not have enough energy to drive up and back with out a rest in between. I guess that is part of being a 'senior'.😉

This is a map of our trip to Grafton.
We travelled over 1400 km that weekend.
Our first trip was to Grafton; but we drove up by going through Tamworth which was 4 1/2 hours from home. We chose this route so we could see a little more of the country side. It became helpful to our mission president because one of the young missionaries who is assigned to Tamworth needed to a driving test to make sure he was able to drive one of the mission cars. [There is only one missionary assigned as driver at a time but some of the drivers have finished their missions and are returning home so replacement drivers are needed.] 

We loved our drive through the ever changing landscapes. This country is so big and has so much to see. We loved the trees, the many different kinds of trees. We loved the open meadows with sheep and cattle. We loved the little towns and their quaint old buildings. We made it a point to take time to stop and see a few of the sites. Not as many as we would have liked but some.

First we stopped at Morisset to see kangaroos. That was an interesting experience.The kangaroos there are used to people and are quite happy to accept our offerings of carrots. But they are not exactly tame. At one point a couple of the kangaroos got annoyed with each other and started hissing at each other. Then the one nearest  to Elder Jenkins turned and punched him in the stomach. It was a hard punch which caused Elder Jenkins to step back a step or two. That kind of dampened his enthusiasm for spending more time with the kangaroos.

It was fascinating to see the little joeys in their mother's pouches. I look forward to bringing our grandchildren there when they visit. 

These joeys are amazing. I was surprised
at how large they actually were
in relation to their mothers

They are so interesting to watch as they lope
around the field.

Nursing joey. this one nuzzled his mother for some long
moments while she was prostrate on the ground before
she finally stood up so he could nurse.

They are so spoiled with so many people bringing them
carrots! They would just come up and take them right
from our hands.
This one did not even use her paws
but was quite happy to be fed.

Beautiful river near Morisset.

Lovely vista near Morisset.
On a large rock lookout north of Tamworth on a rainy Saturday.

Just love the trees!
Driving along the mountain road.


I love the open fields with cattle or sheep or just solitary trees.

How can I not love the trees?

Lots of interesting ferns along the mountain road.

By the river in Grafton just after sunset.

Grafton is a lovely and very clean town. I was so impressed with the cleanliness of the streets and the properties. Just lovely! We thoroughly enjoyed meeting the members of the Grafton Branch  and discussing self-reliance. 

The afternoon afforded us enough time to drive up to MacLean a few km north to see the amazing telephone poles that are painted in Scottish tartans. We saw sugar cane fields and palm trees and lovely scenery.
There are ALWAYS big trucks on the road!

A BIG truck - 34 wheels per my husband's count!

Loved the orange on tops of the trees.

Stewart Hunting Tartan

Royal Stewart Tartan - way back in the family tree
my husband has Stewart ties. So many of the telephone
 poles have tartans painted on them It is pretty cool!

River view in MacLean

Beautiful sunset from Ulmarra pier.

The next weekend we drove to Coffs Harbour, again enjoying the scenery along the way.
This trip was more up and back, but still
traveling Friday and Monday.
We drove over 1000 km this time.

We had the opportunity to spend one night at Opal Cove on the beach so we enjoyed the sound of the surf and walking along the beach during the sunrise.

Sunrise begins streaking light across the sky.

What can I say?

Loved the waves!

Elder Jenkins 

flocks of these beauties on this trip but I don't know their name.

The beach at Opal Cove.

Are these awesome trunks or what?!

It was also fascinating to visit the Big Banana and take a tour in a banana plantation to learn how bananas are grown and harvested. 
Definitely a tourist stop - but a great place to eat and learn.

Yes, the cheesy tourist shot.

We got a free banana at the end of the tour instruction.
They were very good but tasted a little different
than those we usually eat.
Australia does not import any bananas but grow their own.

These special bags are place over each bundle of bananas to protect against insects and wind. It also allows gases to develop which hasten the ripening process. Each 'tree' produces only one bunch and then is cut down leaving a little part to develop into a new  'tree'.

Walking along the path in the plantation.

Coffs Harbour from the overlook.

I loved the ridges made by these incoming waves.

Also from the overlook.

Banana fields

Monarch butterfly at a rest stop on the way home. There are many rest stops, or 'driver revivers'
along the way to help tired drivers. "Stop, revive, arrive alive."

Again, we enjoyed meeting with the wonderful people of Coffs Harbour Branch and speaking about self-reliance. There is an honesty and openness among the branch members which I enjoy so much. I always love being around people who are not ashamed of their testimonies and who evidence their love of the Lord in their behavior. We are so blessed to be here and to associate with so many wonderful people.

In between our trips we have been busy with meetings, teaching English to our missionaries, and taking care of lots of administrative 'stuff'. I would have never imagined how much busy office work is required to keep things up and running. Many of our missionaries were finished with their missions this transfer. We are grateful for their lives of service but will miss them and feel sad knowing that we will probably not see most of them again as they live in far away places.

One of our grandsons received his mission call last week and we were able to participate  via 'facetime' [such a great invention!] as he opened the envelope and read that he will serve in the Argentina Buenos Aires East Mission for 24 months. How exciting for us all! We also have another grandson currently serving in the Tahiti Papeete Mission. So come November there will be THREE Elder Jenkins serving on missions at the same time. We are so grateful that our grandsons have testimonies of Jesus Christ and are willing to sacrifice their time to bring others to Christ. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is truly the 'good news' for the world.

Serving this mission is not at all what we expected. Of course I am not sure exactly what we did expect. We are being stretched in ways we did not know we could be stretched and hopefully that means we are growing. We are being touched by those with whom we work , other senior missionaries as well as the members of the various wards, branches, stakes and district. It gladdens my heart to know that Heavenly Father loves us all and provides so many blessings for us. We are so grateful to be here.

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