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Friday, August 25, 2017


Is it redundant to say that time passes too fast? But redundant or not it is true! It seems like we barely blink and another week has passed. In a few days we will have been in Australia for 6 months! 

We still love it here, we still love the wonderful people we get to associate with, we love the Self-Reliance Initiative and it's potential to bless lives, and we are especially thrilled when we hear of lives being changed and blessed as Self-Reliance courses are held.We keep very, very busy with many meetings and are often exhausted but love what we are doing!

Every day brings new experiences. Our English classes are fun as we try to teach some of these amazing young missionaries more about English. We have the greatest respect for them. Some speak a variety of languages already just not English. Many are true students and work hard to learn; others are not so serious but add a great deal to our class process.

Of course we get attached to them and it is sad when they are transferred to a new area. And when they return home - wow! We just wish them all the best.

Our testing process has been streamlined so we test only the 4th Monday of each month here at the mission office. It makes our lives so much smoother. But if there is someone who is serving a couple of hours away we will drive up there since it is too hard for them to come in.

That is what we did last week when someone up near Newcastle needed both the Michigan and OPIC tests. After the tests we took the long way home and did some sight seeing. We drove through an area that was full of both white and black trunked trees. We had seen them on one of our other trips but did not have time to stop. 

We took a few minutes to examine the trees. I could see that there had been a fire at one point and was surprised to see some large trees with white trunks while others looked burned. And I could feel the charcoal on the trunks of the black ones. Then I realized that they were probably all burned and that  some of the trees had shed their bark. I suppose at some point all the trunks will be white. It is amazing to me that there could be a fire and not destroy the trees.

definitely burned bark on the black trunk!
I have no idea why these trees were lined up in a row.
Larger trees had shed their bark, leaving only the smaller ones with burned bark.

Our next stop was a beach in Swansea called Caves Beach. It has a beautiful park with public change rooms, picnic areas, pathways, etc. And the beach itself is lovely. The sun is still setting pretty early but even about 4 PM we still could enjoy the beach.
I am always a sucker for waves against rocks!

During low tide it is possible to go inside and explore the caves.
But the tide was going in and we were not dressed for spelunking!
Nor did we have the inclination to do so.

There were some other beaches we had hoped to check out but since the sun was setting and our energy was pretty much used up we just headed home. 

I am sure we will be that way again and discover more beautiful places.

August is a month full of birthdays in our family which gave us the opportunity to try to reach the birthday boys and girls to serenade them with our rendition of "Happy Birthday". Pretty much it just sounds like two old folks trying to sing on key 😄 But the best part is when we can see and/or speak with our family.

We miss them of course and it is always does my heart good to hear their voices.

Technology is so amazing! Not too many years ago we could not have communicated as we now do.

Spring is coming! How strange it seems that spring begins near the end of August. But the other day as we left the office it smelled like spring!  I even repotted a plant on our deck today.

A TALL tree!
We went with several other senior missionaries for a 'bush walk' at the Cumberland State Park last week. It is a lovely park only 20 minutes from our flat. A true 'refuge' as they call parks  over here. The trails through the trees were delightful and it was nice to see the small signs that indicated what kind of trees we were walking past.
A nice walk!

A tree shedding its bark to reveal
a beautiful white trunk

What a delight to find a nursery on site that was selling lots of beautiful flowers for spring planting. There are so many unusual and beautiful flowers in Australia and we are lucky to see so many.
A grass tree which was retailing for about $400!!

A Kangaroo Claw! Yes, that is it's name!

A lovely Grevillea

Another Grevillea

Beautiful closed!

But AMAZING when open!

Another beauty!

How many of you have seen the old Star Wars movies when there were huts in the trees? This park has a 'walk in the trees' experience that reminded me of the movie. It is just cool!! When our grandchildren come in a few months we will bring them there for sure!
I thought this was so cool! Yes, that is Elder Jenkins
in the foreground with his Australian hat!

The platforms on the trees went for a LONG way!
It is necessary to put on the provided  harnesses
and head gear but what  grand adventure!

Whoever thought of this activity has a wonderful imagination!!!

We had an enjoyable day. At lunch time we brought out our packed lunches and prepared to sit at a couple of picnic tables. At one end a lady was trying to take pictures of a bowl of food.

Turned out she as the owner of the CAFE on site and was developing a new dish for Father's Day, - By the way Australian Father's Day is September 3rd. 

She had a bowl of 'porridge' with all sorts of goodies on top. Her husband was drizzling honey as she took the picture. 

Elder Jenkins spoke with her and gave her a pass along card so she could learn more about the Church. Then he said something which causes her to say she would bring us out a sample of the dish. A few minutes later we all had sample spoons and this lovely bowl of "porridge" to sample. It was free to us but she had yet to determine the price she would charge when she put if on the menu.
Very Yummy Porridge with a sliced banana, chia seeds, nuts, almonds, granola decorating the top.

And so goes our life from one adventure to another. Last night we went with other senior missionaries to the temple. It is such a blessing to live literally  5 minutes away from the temple. We usually go every week. We all went over to the food court for dinner afterwards. It is a good place to go because there is a great variety of food from which to choose. All of us do not have the same taste in food so this is a way we can all eat what we want and still be together to enjoy each other's company.

Last night was especially nice for us because we were able to deliver a Book of Mormon to a young man at one of the food places. We had met him earlier in the week and spoken about religion. He is so open and hungry to speak about God. We told him we would bring him a book the next time we were in. He is a foreigner in Australia and may not have had the opportunity to learn of the Gospel in his own land. He was so happy to get the  book and to have missionaries come and speak to him about the Gospel. We will likely be patronizing his place of business for some time to come so we can visit.

Today is our Saturday and we have been busy cleaning our flat - vacuuming, dusting, doing laundry, replacing a light bulb, sweeping the balcony, washing floors and will clean the bathroom before we go to a Stake Conference meeting tonight. It is nice to have a day when we  can actually clean!!!! I like a clean place to live. 

Life is good and we are blessed to be here and to know about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017


It seems the days go by too quickly for me to be able to write this blog. Almost 2 weeks have passed it seems in a blur. If I did not have my journal and my daily to-do list and even our pictures to refer to I would not be able to remember all that has happened.

But there are highlights. Our last trip for awhile was to Armidale so we could again present a MyPath devotional and introduce some of the wonderful courses available. There is a relatively new course called Personal Finances which teaches how to create and live within a budget among other financial principles including the blessings of paying a full tithe. Each of the courses includes discussions on the 12 foundational principles of self-reliance which if followed will bring people closer to Jesus Christ and increase their self-reliance as they learn to lean on the Savior. It is always lovely to participate in the process of helping people assess themselves to discover how they need to improve their lives.

One of many signs denoting the city of Cardiff.

This time we chose our route to visit Cardiff NSW on our way. I think it is so interesting that we have been to Cardiff Wales visiting the archive to do family history research and here in Australia there is another Cardiff. It is a nice, small town and it was fun to find some photo ops.  It appeared to be a hub of some agriculture and had a few large car dealerships.

a kind person took our picture. We are dwarfed by the guitar!

From there our route again took us through Tamworth where we had the opportunity to stop by the Golden Guitar and learn a little about the country music festival held there in January. On the visitors center is a wall of donated celebrity guitars including one from Dolly Parton.

The gentleman who was in charge of the centre was originally from England. He told us a lot about the roads and routes we could consider. 

These were all donated by country music celebrities. The black one
2nd to the left of the large frame belonged to Dolly Parton.
Wide open spaces between Tamworth and Armidale
We drove over 1000 km again but the route was different.

I loved all the hills and fields!

A random traffic stop for a breathalyzer test. He asked if I had been drinking and of course I had not. But I still had the test. I just had to count to 10 while I breathed in to his machine. Of course I passed and we were on our  way to Armidale.

I love this!!! It was posted on a bill board by one of the Tamworth Churches.

Armidale is a lovely town as well. We stayed in a nice motel and were greeted by an amazing sunrise the next day. We had the chance to take a walking tour of the old buildings around town or to go find the aboriginal art work I had learned existed a short distance away. What would you have done?
Looking out of our motel window. Beautiful!

I love old buildings but we chose the art work, of course, and back tracked to the small town of Uralla where a kind soul gave us directions to Yarrowyck Reserve. The signing was terrible and had we not known to look for it we would have missed it entirely. We drove north out of town and about 15 minutes later we found the reserve with a few parking places.

It said 3 km Return but I could swear it was MUCH further!
It was a lovely walk. I wish I had adequate words to describe it. Cool, sunny, a gentle walk, a random kangaroo hopped by on our left and then disappeared in front of us across the trial, a tree full of birds seemed startled at our presence and noisily let us know they were displeased.  The landscape was sprinkled with remarkably large boulders that were as interesting as they were beautiful and majestic. The trees also were interesting to see.
Loved this combination!

Can't help but wonder how these huge boulders got here!

love this tree!

The way the bark peels from the trees is so interesting.

the pathway.
Hard to really capture the raw beauty here!

This is the art site. I do not know how anyone every found it
because it was a long way from the road and the art is actually quite small and unobtrusive.

There was a welcome bench on which to rest.

Close up of left side

Close up of right side.

 We finally arrived at the huge boulder which had a slight over hang under which we found the artwork. The art work itself was not spectacular but the fact that it was there was pretty amazing. It is faded but pretty well preserved and there is even  kind of drip line installed to wick away the moisture for further protection.
at the end of our hike.

Dusk  outlining the trees on the hill.

It was totally worth the hike to me.  Elder Jenkins is still struggling with his hip so it was harder work for him.It was dusk as we drove home. I chanced to look out the window to the west and in the distance saw half a dozen kangaroos hoping to the trees. The light was perfect But I could not stop to take a picture.

Sunday morning we enjoyed our time in the Armidale Branch. There are only 5 couples and a few older sisters who live there. Many of them live an hour away from each other. It takes a special kind of faith to gather each week to learn of the Lord. I was asked to play the piano for the hymns because there was no one there who could play. They have a nice little building and the Spirit is of course, always the same. I love that the Gospel it true! It makes even tough situations doable.
These were the adults in the Branch after the My Path devotional

We chose to drive home by way of Thunderbolts Way which cuts through much interesting terrain.  Armidale advertises itself as the highest city in Australia with the caveat that there are towns that are higher 😉 But I had not realized just how high it was because the route coming up through Tamworth was rather gradual.

First we drove though beautiful wide valleys filled with  cattle and thousands of sheep. Then there was a slight descent through majestic evergreen trees and then a further descent at a rather steep and curvy pace. We even saw a logging truck with a trailer both filled with logs that was tipped over in the ditch  Amazingly the logs  had managed to stay in place when the truck went down. The drivers were in no mood for us to stop and take a picture so we continued on. Then we came upon trees with an undergrowth of ferns and then went further down  until we were almost back to sea level. It was a lovely drive.

look at that Sky!

I was very surprised to see so many sheep.

along our way

and the landscape changes


Yes, we were high.

Can't remember the name on the monument but a wife had done it for her husband.

Look at the vines!

Then we stopped at a lovely park in Gloucester.
It is mid winter but something is always blooming! I love it!

We hit the deck running when we got home. There was a Multi-Stake Self-Reliance Training meeting on Tuesday evening for the North Mission and on Wednesday evening for the South Mission. That training was preceded but Returned Missionary Advisor training. Our manager Elder Leota, who is also an Area Seventy, gave wonderful counsel to those in attendance. We even had some listening remotely because the distances are too great of them to come and attend. Along with the South Mission couple we were responsible to provide the refreshments for those attending. 

Saturday we sponsored a Returned Missionary Seminar and invited all the returned missionaries from both South and North Missions. These are the young people who have completed their missions and returned to their homes in our missions. It is a time for them  to connect with others and to be inspired to move forward in their lives. Again we had refreshments to organize. We each also spoke to the returned missionaries. Then we accompanied many of them to the Temple.

That evening we attended a Pathway Connect Graduation. There were 32 graduates from all walks of life. It is a big deal to these folks who have had no other way to step into university training. They all had caps and gowns. Some of the gowns of the  Maori students  were covered with feather cloaks that were so beautiful. And after the ceremony we were treated to a Hakka by the family and friends of those students. It was awesome!

And somewhere in there I turned 70 years old. Wow! It is as my sister-in-law says, an imaginary number!  I don't know if I ever really thought about getting old. But the alternative is not very interesting to me right now. But 70! Wow! I realize that I am staring at my own mortality. I definitely have less years left than I have lived. But with this birthday it just seems closer to my time. Yet there are so many things I still want to accomplish in my life. I am so grateful for the health and strength the Lord has seen fit to give me to this point of my life and I hope for many more years to work on my many projects.

As I pondered my birthday to my mind came the words of the hymn:

Have I Done Any Good? [ page 223, LDS Hymn Book]

1. Have I done any good in the world today?  Have I helped anyone in need? Have I cheered up the sad and made someone feel glad? If not, I have failed indeed.
Has anyone's burden been lighter today because I was willing to share? Have the sick and the weary been helped on their way? When they needed my help was I there?

chorus: Then wake up and do something more Than dream of your mansion above. Doing good is a pleasure , a joy beyond measure, a blessing of duty and love.

2. There are chances for work all around just now, opportunities right in our way. Do not let them pass by, saying, "Sometime I'll try," but go and do something today. 
'Tis noble of man to work and to give; love's labor has merit alone. Only he who does something helps others to live. To God each good work will be known.

Chorus: Then wake up and do something more than dream of your mansion above. Doing good is a pleasure, a joy beyond measure, a blessing of duty and love.

text and music: Will L. Thompson, 1847-1909, alt

I hope that somehow I am able to do the things the Lord wants me to do. That is really why we are serving this mission, even though there are many days that are hard and we are often exhausted. I know that when the time comes that we are released from this assignment we will be glad to see our families again but we will be devastated that we will no longer associate with the great people we are meeting and coming to love here in Australia.

Because we have been blessed to understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ, our lives have been immeasurably enriched. To know that there really is a Plan that our Father in Heaven has provided for us to come back to His presence with our families is so wonderful. We have this time on earth to grow and 'become' as much like our Savior as we can become. To learn to be obedient.  Then when we have done all we can do, because of our Savior's infinite atonement we can be made whole and return to our Father. That's what it is all about. Our Father in Heaven loves us and has always loved us so He prepared this Plan for us.

A couple of weeks ago when we were in Grafton we drove by an old cabin which caught my eye. I love old buildings and this one happened to also have 4 palm trees in front  of it. And I love palm trees. 

We stopped to take a picture. After I had taken the picture I realized the sun was almost ready to give its golden glow that comes just before dusk. So, I waited a few moments for that glow and then took a second picture. 

After I saw what I had taken I realized that there was an object lesson in the contrasting pictures. 

The first one, although I like it a lot, is in contrast to the second photo which is bathed in light. I realize that our lives are like that. We can live our lives doing things  "our own way" or we can live our lives doing as the Savior has asked and be bathed in His light.

It is my hope and prayer that any of you reading this will desire to know the way to return to our Father in Heaven with your families. I  just cannot imagine Eternity without my family!
A beautiful cabin on its own.

The same beautiful cabin bathed in Light.