Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Back in the USSR (MTC)

I just had to find a way to work in the title of the Beatles song to this blog.
We've had a wonderful few days since "graduating" from the MTC.  Now that we're waiting on a visa (visado in Spain; visa in Latin America) we're back 3 days a week, or more, working feverishly on Spanish.  Today we started a program called TALL.  Those of you who have been recently through language training at the MTC will know all about it....Technically Assisted Language Learning.
Last Saturday we had a really terrific experience; going through a session at the Draper Temple in Spanish.  First time in a foreign language for either of us.  And wouldn't you know it- they asked us to be the witness couple.  Go figure.  Everything went fairly well.....until the prayer circle.  Fun.
It was a could a snowy day but the temple was certainly busy with weddings.
That night we went down to Temple Square for the annual Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas Program.  This year the headliner talent was Tom Brokaw and Alfie Bow from England (of Les Miserable 25th anniversary fame as Jean ValJean).  Before the show we decided to go eat somewhere at City Center or the Lion House.  Bad Idea.  There were thousands of people (I'm not exaggerating) with the same idea.  As we stood looking at lines snaking clear outside at every restaurant Vivienne said, "Isn't there a grocery store nearby?"  I remember there's a new Harmons just across the street, so we sped over there and were surprised at the amazing amenities inside the store.  We found ourselves with a smorgasbord of choices, buffet style and wonderful cafe table seating all around the second floor.  And NO lines.  If you're ever downtown, need a place to eat, and are frustrated with the crowds, just skip across the street and have a great getaway meal.  Afterwards we walked around Temple Square.  It was magical.

Last night was the annual Christmas Dinner for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  It was our last opportunity to attend since Vivienne retired this past April.  We'll miss the wonderful meal at Grand America Ballroom but mostly we'll miss the chance to mingle with great friends and with the Prophet, who always attends.  I don't know if we'll have many occasions to mingle in a small crowd with the Prophet again in our lives.  

It has been a fantastic ride in the choir.  But I must say we thoroughly enjoyed sitting in the audience Saturday night and being immensely entertained.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Graduation Day!

Here's a shot of the nurses and their spouses that went through missionary training this week with us:
Next to Vivienne is Sister Fuller: Paraguay
Then the Atkins: Atlanta, Georgia, North
Sister Gilbert, New Jersey
The Kearsleys: North and South Dakota
Yeah, I know.  We won the missionay nurse lottery.  Spain is best by far.  We tried to be humble all week, but it was hard not to smile every time we mentioned.

 This picture is mainly for Dave.  This is Dr. and Sister Hebertson.  He serves on the Missionary Health Executive Council (I think).  Anyway, Dave he delivered you!
 This is Dr. Doty who serves as Executive Director of Health for the Missionary Department.  It's hard to pick favorites because there were so many incredible health care professionals that taught us, But Dr. Doty is an amazing man. It was an amazing week!
Now we just have to concentrate on learning Spanish until the visa arrives.  Keep praying with us that it comes sooner rather than later.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Tender Mercies

It's really quite amazing sometimes how the Lord seems to be involved in little things in one's life.  And if we're not careful about those subtle indicators how easy it is, at least for me, to miss the obvious.
Three cases in point:
1.  When Chuck and Kristin were coming to live in our house and take care of it, all our concerns about the cars and the house were seemingly solved.  However, 2 weeks before our mission Chuck let us know that as much as they wanted to come back to Utah and live in our house, it simply wasn't going to be possible.  And by that time, the other two fallback options were gone because they had made other plans, and who can blame them. 
Well, we were back to square one with no time to work on a good solution, when out of the blue, 2 days later, our daughter Michelle called from El Paso to say that it just so happened that a military family in her ward was retiring and moving to Salt Lake City and looking for a place to rent for a couple of years.  They are honest people and impeccable house keepers.  Michelle said she would be happy to have them live in her house, and she's a lot more particular about her house than we are.  Coincidence?  I think not.  They want to move about the middle of January.  It couldn't be a better fit.
2.  Chuck and Kristin were also going to buy our car, so the question became, "What are we going to do with our car?  Sell it?  How can we do that when we need it until we leave and we don't know exactly when that will be because of the visa problem.  Leave it for Dave to sell?  Swell; just what Dave needs; another problem to solve for Nana and Bubba.  He's already got a list a mile long.  Leave it in the garage for 2 years?  Who will watch it and take it out for a spin every couple of weeks, and put winter additives in the fuel and check the tires, etc., etc?  What if the new family needs the garage?  Shall we leave it parked out in the weather for 2 years?  None of these seemed like good options.  Well, the first day at the MTC I got a text from someone I didn't even know who said they heard I might be looking to sell my car, and his son had just returned home last week from a mission to Germany and was starting school at BYU and needed and car, and would I be interested in selling it to them, and how soon would it be available?  Well, we called Dave and it just so happened that only a couple of weeks ago he got his extra car/pickup back, so we asked him if we could borrow it until we leave, to which he said, "yes".  So Saturday when we got back from the MTC the family was waiting in our driveway and 4 hours later the car was so and we had Dave's truck parked in our garage and the money in the bank.  It was pretty amazing.  Here's a shot of the Nitro's new owners.  Really a nice family.

3.   Well if that wasn't enough, we were scheduled to perform today, Sunday, and Vivienne was having real difficulty playing the piano with her old glasses.  So recently she had ordered new glasses but when they arrived they were worse than the old ones.  Completely unusable.  We rushed back to the store and ordered a different set, without bifocals.  Friday while at the MTC we received a phone message that her glasses had arrived, so when we finished with the car and the bank we rushed to the glasses store.  It was 2:45.  However we discovered the store closes on Saturdays at 2:00.  Yep, locked up tight.  But just for fun I tapped on the door and waited.  Someone just happened to still be in the back talking on the phone.  They let us in and got Viv's glasses for her.
These might all seem like coincidences.  But I choose to believe otherwise.  I'm sure not everything will work out as planned just because we're trying to do what the Lord wants, but it sure does feel good to know we're on His team.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Our Tutor

What a wonderful week in the Provo MTC!
Here's a picture of Charlie Ankemann, our tutor for the past several months.  He's an absolutely terrific tutor, very patient but very determined about making us speak "Spanish" Spanish.  He's also a zealous proponent of the classic Spanish epic novel, Don Quixote, and refers to it frequently while teaching us.
We're standing in building 18M, in front of the adminsitrative offices for senior language training.  We've spent many many hours in the 4-story building in multiple classrooms reptitiously doing the best we can. 

 Here's a shot of Brother Keepman one of the instructors for Senior Missionaries.  Great people skills, majoring in Finance at BYU (and single, about which we teased him constantly because there are so many beautiful and charming single sisters teaching us also.  He was a good sport.

On the last evening the Tuellers came to speak with a small group of us.  They served two missions together, one in Jakarta as mission president years ago.  When they were called they were told that they would direct a mission with about 200 native missionaries, none of whom were endowed because there was no temple nearby.  There were no stakes either, so none of the members or missionaries had received a Patriarchal Blessing.  They saw many changes and miracles during their time there.  Their second mission was to Spain, Madrid!  We learned a lot from them, and it comforted me to hear from them that it took about a year before they felt they were truly able to converse freely in the language.  Of course we're hoping for a miracle.  We don't want to wait a year before we feel we're being effective.  Also it makes us glad we're serving for 23 months and not just 18.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Last Day of First Week

I failed to mention in the last blog that the reason we took a picture of Vivienne standing in front of the painting, Standard of Truth is because it's the same artist, Frank Thomas, that painted the two pictures in the entry of our home; Leaving Nauvoo and Joseph & Brigham.
Yesterday on one of our short breaks we stepped into the laundry at the MTC.  There are 269 units, either washers or dryers, lined up along 2 isles similar to this one that is in the picture.  It was amazing to just stand there and look at it and think of all the clothes that go through there on a weekly basis.

We were told yesterday that on average 350-400 new missionaries come through the MTC each week, but in January it's jumping up to a new level: they are expecting 700 a week.  Being here and seeing how busy it is, I can't imagine how they're going to accomplish it.  On Wednesdays they go through 30 5-gallon containers of ice cream from the BYU Creamery; in other words 150 gallons.
This is the last week of the "old" Senior Missionary program that will house the training here on site at the MTC.  They are making arrangements to move it all to an adjacent Stake Center, at least for the time being.
We just checked again with the Travel Office and still no visas.  They are not expecting any from Spain until the end of the year.
This was our District at the MTC.  Elder Sullivan was District Leader, Sister Haslam (Oklahoma, Tulsa mission) Sister Fuller (Paraquay mission), Elder Wilford & Sister Woodruff [no kidding on the name] (Canada, Montreal mission), Elder & Sister Trotter (Washington, Tocoma mission)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Second Day at MTC

Well, we weren't going to make it a daily occurrence  to post but today was another incredible experience.  I didn't have a chance to take pictures of all the neat things that we got to be part of, but I just had to share this picture of the lights on the main walk-way at the MTC.  Tonight we had a special devotional and Vivienne and I got to sing in the choir.  It's an amazing thing to sit in a room with 4000 missionaries and sing "Silent Night" at the Christmas season.

It was a 14 hour day, we're exhausted but happy.
Saw 2 young missionaries from Finland today;
Elder Mikola from Tampere and
Sister Silvenoinen whose family is
from Kuopio and whom I knew.
He was going to Japan and she to Greece.
Who would have thought!

Monday, December 3, 2012

First Day of Our Mission

This is awesome!  We are having so much fun.  
The trip to the MTC was full of anticipation, like, "What are we getting into?"
But there was no need for concern.  They are SOOO organized in the church; it's really a marvel to behold.  They held our hands all along the way and it was so smooth.
The food is good.  We certainly don't stay hungry very long.
They are so full at the MTC that they put up most of the Senior Missionaries in the Downtown Provo Marriott Hotel, with every amenity you could want, including hot tub and swimming pool.
It's so nice to be seniors and able to go swimming, etc.  Wish we had brought our swim suits.

Here's a picture of our humble sleeping quarters.  Missions are SUCH a sacrifice!

Some of you have asked for a copy of the quote from Vivienne's talk last Sunday about Sacrifice versus Consecration:

Quote from Ron Crapo
I’d like to share the single greatest lesson I have learned during my fifteen years in the Choir.  All of us who serve in this organization have a singular opportunity for service in a calling requiring significant amounts of our time over an extended tenure.  No other callings in the Church are quite like it.
Sacrifice implies a sense of loss: giving up something for a greater good.  Our service could certainly be described as a sacrifice.  Alternatively, we could describe our service as an act of consecration.  Consecration does not imply a sense of loss: it is a gift freely given; the reciprocation of blessings richly bestowed on us by the Lord.
As we serve here together, some are sacrificing while others are consecrating.  The difference lies in our attitude.  If we tend to murmur our dissatisfactions we are sacrificing.  If we take things is stride we are more likely consecrating.  Sacrifice and consecration make essentially the same demands upon our time and talents, but we experience more joy and satisfaction when our attitudes reflect the higher purpose found in consecration.