Saturday, May 21, 2011

Moving on

Since our mission is over, it seemed we needed a new blog.  If you want to see what we are doing now that we are home and only doing common things, here is our new address.

Since I want to be able to put names and perhaps be a little more detailed, I've decided to see what it's like to have a private blog.  I think when you click on this site, you can ask to view the blog.  Then I can add you to the list.  If this doesn't work, email me at

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Settling In

I thought coming home would be like putting on a pair of comfortable shoes-- I'd just slip right in. It didn't work that way. I think we were more like the younger missionaries. We came off our mission and what were we to do next?

Maybe a combination of young missionary/old missionary problems-- we couldn't remember where things were in our home. Where's the silverware? Where did we keep the iron? Was that piece of furniture always there?

We spent a few days with our oldest son, Andy, and his family (and one of the five grandchildren born on our mission). It was fun to visit with them and the grandchildren. When we got in the car to drive home... my left food didn't know what to do. No clutch! But driving IS like riding a bike. You don't forget. And it wasn't hard to transition to driving on the right side of the road.

Miranda, Dan, and new (to us) baby Camden-- he's one year old-- came to visit and that helped with the transition.

I don't know if it helped or hindered. Certainly it hindered in getting the house organized-- but we'd moved stuff out of the downstairs for the housesitter. And it seemed like a good plan, while the furniture was not there, to take down the old paneling and popcorn ceiling in the last room in the house with paneling (and also the largest) and put in drywall. Of course the food storage closet is there, as well... and why not... and so we have tons of food storage cluttering other parts of the house now. Well, that includes the 96 boxes of food storage our daughter brought over as she stages her house to sell.

We will start on a circuit to visit the remaining children and grandchildren and end with celebrating my Mom's 90th birthday the end of May. Then, I suppose we really must settle in and decide what to do with our lives.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Trip Home

Friday morning we planned to get up at 4:30 to be prepared for the 6am departure to the airport. We set the alarm. We failed, however, to turn on the alarm. We awoke at 5:15.

What excitement! I didn't know I could shower, finish packing, clean the room, and be ready so fast. I even got a little breakfast. I preferred to go out with a rush. We stuffed much into the last days of our mission. It was a good way for the last day to begin.

We had much time to decompress and transition while in the plane and at airports. Our flight didn't leave until 7:15 pm. We thought we could escort our Kenyan people to their gate, but it didn't work as we didn't have our boarding passes. So we said good-byes, and then waited. We read. We walked around. I crocheted part of a necklace. We hung around like vultures for the ticket office to open so we could rid ourselves of 4 of our bags. We weighted them-- EXACTLY 23 KG each! And we checked them through to our final destination! Hurray! We feared we might have to pay for the extra baggage for the USA leg. Then we enjoyed a Subway Sandwich and shopped at the Out of Africa place for a last tie for Tom.

We slept on the Johannesburg to London flight and arrived at 5:15 am London time. Again, the airport became our friend as we waited the 6 hours for a connecting flight. This one was harder to sleep on-- 11 hours-- but it was all daytime. We arrived in Dallas at 3pm or so. We had to claim our luggage and take it through customs, but then they rechecked it immediately after.

Our 7 hour layover there increased by 2 hours as Dallas had a lightening storm and the flights were stopped during that time. By then, we were moving pretty slowly ourselves. I don't know about "brain dead"... but certainly in critical condition. We arrived in Jackson, MS at 1am, collected all our luggage, and got to our son, Andy's, house by 2:20. Ahh. The bed felt Sooo good.

Sunday was Easter. We enjoyed being in church. But how odd to have no responsibilities. None. It isn't all that good of a feeling. So I held somebody's baby most of the time. We enjoyed the grand children. They are bright and talented and smart and...

Monday Andy had off and we worked outside landscaping their house. They've done a beautiful job of it! It's just lovely. I mostly mulched and admired.

Tuesday we hauled our stuff home. Tom drove the truck and I, the new (to us) Toyota. Wait! Where's the clutch? What's the left foot supposed to do? And, er, which side of the road should I be on? It IS like riding a bike. You don't forget. Our intent was to stop in Little Rock at the commissary and stock up. Alas. A tornado had come through the night before and damaged it... and it was closed. So we stopped in Mountain View at Walmart and picked up a few things.

It felt almost strange to be home. I expected to walk in and just feel this overwhelming sense of: I'M HOME. But it didn't happen. It was hard to remember. Where does this go? Where do I find that? Has that always been there? It was like slowly immersing oneself into a warm tub of water. Ah... but crawling into our own bed felt GREAT!

As we unpacked, old met new. Which memorabilia or memories will take the forefront now? We have TOO MUCH STUFF. Some things will have to go. When you've lived with little-- it's a good time to evaluate the much.

Wednesday afternoon we drove to Springfield to meet with the Stake President and the High Council and be released. It was good to report. We feel we have served a mission with our heart, might, mind and strength. Not a perfect mission. We certainly made our share of mistakes. But a mission that was pleasing in the eyes of the Lord.

I felt a touch of sadness at taking off the name tag for the last time. We have been so blessed and protected as we have served. I KNOW the Lord has watched over us. I KNOW angels have been round about us protecting and guiding us as we've been about the Lord's work. Will we still have that guidance and protection?

I trust we will. I trust as we continue to give ourselves to the Lord, what will be done will be according to His will. It has been a great mission. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true. It is God's church. Jesus Christ, the savior and redeemer, is at its head. We will draw nearer to God and the the peace, joy, and love that is His nature, as we follow its teachings. I know this is so.

Every Good Thing

When Elder L. Whitney Clayton came to the mission he said that the Lord is pleased with every good thing we do. It doesn't have to be a big thing. It can be a little one-- a smile, a helping hand. Listening. Doing a small service. How much easier it is to do good, when we remember that it pleases the Lord.

He also said, you don't have to be perfect today. Keep working on it. Life is a process and it takes time. In Moses 7:21 it says "in the process if time" the city of Enoch was taken to heaven. It took time. And in D&C 50:24 we learn if we receive what comes from God-- if we listen to what God asks us to do, and do it... we will receive more. More instructions, more wisdom, more light and truth. We will become more perfect.

Isn't it wonderful that it can all start with doing One. Good. Thing.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Johannesburg Temple

Monday morning we went to the mission service center and met all the people going to the temple. We had a family of 5-- the Ochieng Odunga family, and sister Consulate from Nairobi, and we had Josephat Barasa Lumuli and his wife from Naitiri near Kitale in addition to our 17 from Kisumu. We discussed the details of airports and flying and then had a testimony meeting. In the afternoon we flew to Johannesburg and arrived at Patron Housing at the temple about 9pm. We crashed and regained strength for Tuesday. It was much chillier in Johannesburg. We found it delightful, the Kenyan's found it cold.

Tuesday we went to the distribution center. Then the adults went to the temple about 11 to make sure all their paperwork was in order. After a quick lunch, they went to the temple at 1pm. The children went to the temple with us about 2:30 when we went up for the 3pm session. It was wonderful to see all these couples and single sisters there. Pym, a 13 year old in the Odhiambo family, was supposed to come to the temple with the other children to be sealed. But after the endowment session, they came to tell the parents he was seriously ill and needed to go to the hospital. Pym had been sick and treated for malaria, but was not better. They had prayed he would be strong enough to come to the temple... and he was strong enough to come. It turned out he had a fluid filled cyst on the brain-- maybe TB of the brain-- and certainly would have died had he stayed in Kisumu. So it was a blessing he came. The rest of the families were sealed as the Odhiambos went to the hospital.

Some days the children walked around the temple grounds.

Wednesday morning was spent in the family history center as the families put their family history on the computers and prepared names for the temple. Just as Jesus acted as proxy for all of us as he took our sins upon him, in the temple, people act for in behalf of the deceased to do baptisms and other work the spirits who have passed on cannot do for themselves. The spirits of the deceased, of course, have the choice to accept or reject these ordinances. But Jesus said everyone had to be baptized. I love it that there is a way made for those who have not heard of Jesus or the gospel in this life are not cut off from the presence of God but can have this baptism and other saving ordinances done vicariously by other.

At 1pm we met for photos in front of the temple and at 2 they did baptisms and then the adults went on to other work. I stayed back with the young children until the older teens returned.

The Odhiambo Family

The Okila Family

Marcelus Owino and Family

Brother and Sister Barasa

Joseph Oching Odunga and family

Ericah, Sister Fox, and Consulate. And below is the whole group.

There is a trick to trying to get food prepared in time for the ordinances to be done. But this group was very time conscious and did manage to feed us all and still get to the temple. The men were very capable and several times they made the meals and other times they cleaned up. Wednesday night we ate about 9pm. I asked the Kenyans and they often eat about 8pm or so. Elder Fox made a sandwich and bailed out. I stayed and ate.

We enjoyed visiting with the missionary couples and the wonderful people at the temple and and Patron housing. They were so helpful with Pym. The area doctor also assisted with some other of the youth who had been struggling with illnesses.

Thursday was a repeat of Wednesday with the exception that we did sealings at the end of the day. It made for a long day. But it was wonderful. It was a choice experience to take these families to the temple. They glowed! They were so excited to go and so spiritually fed.

Then came the sad good-byes. Even the families we had only known a few days had become close friends. Thursday evening we shared how the temple had increased their testimonies. Then on Friday we had to be up and ready to leave by 6am. We set the alarm for 4:30 so we'd have plenty of time. Alas, we failed to turn it on! We awoke at 5:15.... and that was the fastest getting ready and packed I've ever done. It was a fitting ending. No lingering. No contemplation. Just work as hard and fast as we could!

Our goal had been to take the Kenyans to the airport and help them get to their gate. Then we were told that we departed from a different terminal. Then it turned out that we did leave from the same terminal, but we had been unable to print our boarding passes, so we could not have gone past the security check-point anyway. So we hugged good-bye and sent them on their way.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

In the Moment

We have been blessed to be “in the moment”—not worrying about things past or anticipating things in the future (very much.)

Monday and Tuesday we cleaned, packed, finished all the zillions of odds and ends we needed to do before leaving. We spent way too much time at Telkom, calling customer service, and explaining the problem as we worked on a refund for days the internet was off line. I wrote up George’s chicken project. Tom interviewed two sick teens who had not been able to be interviewed for the temple—under the direction of the mission president. A young man came from Busia for passport and Yellow Fever shot in anticipation of going on a mission. And we tried to finish the area book for the missionaries who will follow us.

Wednesday we left. Lots of lasts… last good byes… last visits to people… last hugs and last minute gifts. Last time to drive through the countryside… last diversion… last chance to see the markets and the brilliantly colorful dresses the women wear. Last time to see the acacia trees, the zebras, the Thompsons gazelles. On the way we talked. Had we done enough? Are there things we wished we would have done? Can they carry on? We felt a sweet peace that our work was acceptable to the Lord. The people will step up to the plate. They will grow. They will learn many things as they await a new couple and they will be stronger for it.

We had a wonderful exit interview with President Broadbent. He is a godly man! We and then had a really sweet (and tasty) farewell dinner at the Broadbent’s that evening with all the missionary couples. We got to meet the brand new couple—the Scotts—who are going to Mombasa. One of the wonderful perks of this mission are the fantastic senior missionary couples who also serve here. We have visited, dined together, shared ideas and support and encouragement and picked brains about how to do things better. I think the best missionaries in the world are sent to the Kenya Nairobi Mission.

Thursday we tied up loose ends at the Mission office, contacted those going to the temple to check that their transport was in line, and visited the Nairobi Telkom office in an effort to get the refund we expected. We shopped for food for the last few days and finished most of the area book. We put the things we thought the new couple would need on a jump drive as well. And we had a lovely dinner with Elder and Sister Tuttle.

Friday we went to the Nairobi Park. It has most of the animals except elephants. We drove all over the highways and byways of the park and E. Fox had a great time! We saw a lion, lots of elands and cokes hartebeests, a crocodile and a terrapin, Thompson’s gazelles and impalas and ostriches and a variety of other birds. Alas, we grabbed the old video camera instead of the new one. So we finished the mission as we began—with a snapshot camera and a finicky-zoom camera.

This time was a great time to decompress. I felt the weight of responsibility lift from my shoulders as we left Kisumu. Yes, there were still problems and concerns there… but there was nothing I could do about it now. And yes, I really didn’t know what we would do when we got home, but the Lord has reassured us he has something in mind and when the time comes, we will know it. So we have been happily living in the moment. Well, sometimes the driving in Nairobi traffic is a little stressful. And certainly packing adds it’s spice of excitement. Will it all fit? Will it be within the weight limits? Are the carry-ons the right size? I know at times the Lord has shrunk the truck to fit through a narrow spot. I trust if it’s right and necessary, he will shrink our baggage as well. If not… we pay through the nose.

Saturday we went out to dinner with the senior couples. We met Elder and Sister Judd who had spent two years in China teaching English to university students. This job is handled through BYU from where they are trained and sent. They loved it, and it sounded like fun. Saturday night our temple group left from Kisumu.

Sunday morning we met our temple families at church. They had wanted to travel through the night so they could attend church in Nairobi. For most, it was the first time to see a “real” chapel (as opposed to a rented house.) But the greatest tender mercy of the Lord was that the stake was showing the DVD of general conference and they got to hear President Monson talk about the value and importance of temples and temple attendance. You could almost see them glow with excitement. They were GOING!

Sunday evening I wrote up our seminary activity of last Saturday. E/S Harms from South Africa public affairs were visiting to do training and we got to see some of the new videos they are producing to introduce the church and the Family Enrichment Program (A value oriented but not religious oriented Family Home Evening program.) It’s interesting that now I can see that the people shown in the video are… or are not… from Kenya. African is not African—there are many subtle and not-so-subtle differences between nations and they are working to address this and make the videos country specific.

Today we fly to South Africa and the temple portion of our journey begins!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Things I will miss

As we prepare to leave Kenya, here is a random list of thing I will miss.

1. I will miss all the wonderful people. Saying good-by to those we have come to love is difficult. For many, we are the church are intertwined. We are the face of the church and they wonder if they will be able to go on without us. Of course they will. They are strong. They have faith. They will do fine. But our hearts will always be with our friends here.

2. Seeing people’s lives change. It is so awesome to see a person looking into the church and see them begin to understand God’s love for them and his plan of happiness. As they take hold of it, they are INVARIABLY blessed both spiritually and temporally.

3. Doing something that really matters. It’s hard to think of anything else that we could do that would make such an impact on others. Lives change! People say: “I used to be angry and my family was afraid of me. Now we sit down and talk and my children love to come and tell me things.” Or “I was very bad off back then. Now I can hold my head up. I can pay my rent and my children’s school fees.” Or. “I was so sick. I couldn’t do anything. Then the missionaries gave me a blessing and I have not been sick like that ever again.” Or. “I did not know I was a child of God. Now I know I matter to God.” The prophet said, “The Gospel makes bad men [and women] good and good men better.” I have seen it.

4. Talking to random strangers about Jesus Christ. People walk up to you on the street, read your name tag and say, “I love Jesus, too.” Or “I have been saved,” or “What is this church?” It’s so easy to tell people about the Savior and his love for them and how they can have a happier more peaceful life.

5. Eternal summer. I love the trees always being green, the flowers ever-blooming. The bougainvillea just blooms it heart out in a spectacle of red, fuscia, pink, yellow, white, orange and rust. The vine on the fence and gate periodically sports a bright yellow overcoat of blooms. It’s a beautiful country. I think it’s the garden of Eden. Want cassava? Push a stick of it into the ground and it will grow. Want sugarcane? Cut a cane into pieces and plant them. They’ll grow!

6. The skyscape. We have spectacular sunsets and sun rises. I love it when the afternoon storm blows in with tumbling clouds and rumbling thunder. There are times when the thunder grumbles continuously for 10 minutes or more as lightening flashes from cloud to cloud.

7. The animals. We have seen amazing animals here in all their varieties—giraffes, zebras, lions, elephants, monkeys—both on game preserves and often by the side of the road.

8. Cooked Cabbage. I’ve never been a cabbage lover, but this is so sweet and tasty!

9. Sunrise at 6-6:30 and sunset at 6:45-7:15. I didn’t need an alarm, the daylight woke me up. I loved the consistency.

10. Having a fixed purpose. Politics, finances, World events were not the focus. The purpose each day was to serve the Lord the way we were directed by Him to do. There was variety, excitement… sometimes apprehension, joy, duty, satisfaction, and the sweet influence of the spirit directing us.

11. The wonderful variety of accented syllables and the unique use of words. “If they are late for the meeting, they miss the preamble to the meeting.” “You are supposed to discuss things in your presidency meetings and come to branch counsel to digest them.” And of course, the all time favorite: “This area is infested with Quakers.” April is Ah-preelle. Wednesday is Wed-ness-day… just like it’s spelled. It’s just that each letter is pronounced.

12. The wonderful singing of the African saints! Even a small number make a grand sound. I love the harmonies they create. Every time I sing Redeemer of Israel I will remember being in Marcelus' house around his small table with the cement walls echoing back the sound. It was his favorite song and we sang it each time we visited.

13. The diversity of people, landscape, clothing, housing, etc. Just such a variety of all kinds of things. I love the brown skin in all it's varieties, the different eye shapes and cheek bones. The shapes of the chins. Since we can't quickly identify people by hair color or style, we needed to really look at the face shapes.

14. COLOR!!! I love the bold colors of the clothes and the large scale prints. Tye-dies, batik, patterned lessas and getangas. the elegant lace work and cut work of many dresses. the ruffles and tucked sleeves of the dresses. Really these are a well dressed people and I have enjoyed the vivid colors they wear.

Things I won’t miss:

1. Opening and closing and locking the gate every time we go in or out.

2. Ants. Tiny black ones that wander singularly and sparsely on any surface including shirt front or arm or neck. However, they congregate enthusiastically when there’s a knife with a speck of peanut butter left on the counter.

3. Heat. Sticky, sweaty heat. And no place to go for relief. Well… actually the truck has A/C… but we’ve never been tempted to ride in it just to cool off. No. Really. We haven’t done that. And hello! What kind of heat do we have in Arkansas in the summer? Maybe it will feel more comfortable to me now.

4. The lapse of utilities. * Electric power fluctuations, blinks, and the all too frequent stoppage. It’s tough when you suddenly drop into pitch black as you were working on dinner. *Water tanks nearly empty where you wait anxiously for the music of the trickle of city water dropping into the tank and splattering on the puddle at the bottom. *Internet connection interruptions. Now that we have a wireless, we can go from an okay speed to a crawl (read: we cannot open this website or this email… try again.) However, when the electricity goes out, there’s not much time left to use the computer before it, too, conks.

5. Cold water. Okay. I’ve learned to wash my face in cold water if I have to. I have not yet mastered showering in the chill. But we managed with the electric shower head and an electric tea kettle… with the exceptions of utility failures noted in #4.

6. Being away from family. I know, I know, we don’t live near family anyway. And Skype was great (excepting lapses noted in #4). But it was hard to miss babies being born and seeing children grow up for this long. We were so blessed with good health for all our family and with employment and the tender mercies of the Lord on them while we were gone.

7. Bleching black clouds of exhaust. I won't miss that. Or the dust that swirls around when you walk.

8. Wearing a dress every day-- seven days a week. I will be glad to go casual. I think I'm sloppy at heart.