Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Goodbyes and Hellos

We went through a variety of emotions last week. Some goodbyes were harder than others.
With the STLTs in front of the Halifax Temple--good women!
Frances Buott, a Nova Scotian we met before we left on our mission
Monday morning was the hardest as we packed up and headed west. We've come to love this place!
Arriving in reverse--leaving Nova Scotia
Something we hadn't noticed in all the times we've crossed back and forth between two provinces is the flags flying on the border between Nova Scotia (on the right) and New Brunswick (on the left)
We made a few stops along the way:
Selfies in front of the Montreal, Quebec Temple . . . 

. . . and the Toronto Temple . . .
. . . And the Detroit Temple

     Saturday we arrived to this welcome:

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"Crisis or transition of any kind reminds us of what matters most."
-M. Russell Ballard
  We had a wonderful mission and are thrilled to be back home among some of what matters most.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Senior Couples Retreat

     Several months ago President Pratt said he'd like to get all the senior couples together for a few days for a conference/retreat/whatever because some of the couples have never met except on Skype and asked us to come up with some ideas for it. Elder Holbrook worked hard on it (we would have loved something like that early in our first mission), and after a couple of proposed venues and dates, it all came together this past weekend. Three new couples have arrived this month, so it was a perfect time for everyone to meet.

     All the couples came to the Halifax area--ten couples plus the Pratts. Three couples stayed at the Mission Home with the Pratts and three others each stayed with the three local couples who have larger apartments. We traveled around in President Pratt's car, a minivan, and the mission transfer van.

     Sister Pratt met each couple with a welcome basket full of snacks for the weekend and a missionary plaque. Friday night we had a nice dinner at a place called the MicMac (Bar and) Grill. Delicious food and fun to start getting to know everyone. The next morning Sister Pratt hosted us for breakfast with a delicious spread before we headed to Peggy's Cove. It was kind of a drizzly day and the water was calmer than we've seen it before.
L-R Sister Brewster (Bountiful), Sister Excell (Cedar City), Sister Edwards (Eagar, AZ),
Sister Pratt, Sister Doman (Oregon), Sister Hull (Preston, ID), Sister Holbrook
With Sister and President Pratt

We saw things we haven't seen on any of the other times we've been there, but we're pretty sure this anchor has been around for a while.

Almost every time we've been, there has been at least one musician playing around the lighthouse. The sounds carry a long distance. They play for free, but have their music case open for donations. This time it was a bagpiper, all decked out. Fun!

And this carving in a 100-foot granite outcropping. It was done as a lasting monument to Nova Scotia fisherman and their families as well as the legendary Peggy, the woman the area was named after

From there we headed to Mahone Bay. We'd heard something about a scarecrow festival but didn't know what that meant. We found out before we ever entered the city. They had a wide variety of "scarecrows" scattered all throughout the town. Here are some of our favorite of the ones we got pictures of, but some we saw as we were driving and weren't fast enough with the camera.

After another rainy stop in Lunenburg (remember the Pinterest Fail post a few months back?), we headed back to Halifax and the Titanic Cemetery. The smaller headstones are on the graves of people identified only by a number (the order they were recovered). This section of the cemetery is laid out like the bow of a ship. There's also a monument to those who died in the Halifax Explosion. The blast was so great very few bodies were recovered, so the mass grave is for the bits of bone that were recovered.

     Saturday morning we explored a little in downtown Halifax and then went to the temple. We are so blessed to have a temple so close this time.

     The weekend was a fun way to connect and reconnect. These are great people we've had the opportunity to rub shoulders with this past year. They've helped they light of the Saviour shine in the Maritimes and have blessed many people here, including us.

"We are not here in this life just to waste our time, grow old, and die.  God wants us to grow and achieve our potential."
-Carlos A Goday

     We love serving with so many who are helping us achieve our potential.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Joy in the Journey

     This is a great place to be, in part because the missionaries are so much fun to have around and can be very entertaining. Here's a small sample of the fun things we've found--just the ones we caught on camera.

     We have weekly district meetings with the local missionaries, and four of them share an apartment. They had a giant bear kicking around their apartment, so they slit the back seam, took out the stuffing, and Elder Marcelino, who is from the Philippines and a little on the small side, climbed inside and put a cape on to cover the open seam. They showed up at Sister Pratt's surprise birthday party. We couldn't figure out who he was until they told us. He couldn't see anything, so he had to be led around by other missionaries. He later said it was a little cramped and very hot, but a fun joke. No, it's not the new mission mascot. They put the stuffing back in and sewed it up again before transfers.

     The previous office couple left behind some stress balls. One time when we came in the office we discovered missionaries had been in the night before and lined up the balls on the headrest of Elder Holbrook's chair. Nobody ever admitted to it or asked us about it.

     One time there was some sort of meeting at the stake centre. After we walked into the cultural hall and saw missionaries all over the floor. We couldn't figure out what they were doing.

     Someone told us that Elder Cox was leaving in a week/7 days, so they were making a 7 in his honor. It wasn't very straight, but they were having a ball doing it.

     We went to a +50 activity (Bingo) our ward holds on occasion. The guy on the far right, Terry Skipper, is bald as a billiard ball. He'd found a Scottish hat with red hair hanging down from it, and when he put it on he became a different person. He was the Bingo caller and did a great job. Fun evening.

Terry Skipper, Bingo Caller Extraoridinaire
     There is a low credenza in the office. One morning when we came in, we discovered it was skewed and partly sitting on the floor. When we started asking the missionaries about it, one of them said, "Well, it kind of broke." After a little prodding, they admitted there were three missionaries sitting on it! We were planning to take it to the dump and see what we could find to replace it. Fortunately, Elder Green was able to put it all back together and strengthen in with a leg in the middle. There is now a sign on it saying, "I've been resurrected once and don't think I can do it again. Please use a chair."

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     Elder Allsop was trying to scrunch down so he wasn't covering his companions (a temporary threesome), but all he managed was some awkward looking poses. He had us all in stitches.
     L-R Sister Street, Sister Dutson (Utah), Sister Thomson (BC), Sister and Elder Excell (Cedar City), Elder Hart (Sandy), Elder Allsop (Springville), Elder Argyle (Kaysville).
Elder O'Brien and Elder McGuire after a talent show
This is how missionaries dress down for P-day

     One more non-missionary thing we've gotten a kick out of that we've seen over and over here is the Canadian touch at McDonalds:
A maple leaf in the golden arches

     We love all the things here that help us to find joy in our journey.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


     President Pratt was determined we needed to see some of Newfoundland before we went home. We'd been to Gander once shortly after we arrived, but we arrived late at night, were in meetings the next day and a big storm hit the following morning, so we didn't see much of anything except black and white. President Pratt decided he needed our help at the District Conference that was held in St. John's last weekend, so we tagged along with him. St. John's is the oldest settlement in North America.

     President Pratt had an emergency
come up while we were driving to the airport, so he put off his flight for 24 hours and flew up the next night. We ended up taking a later flight than originally planned and then the taxi driver got lost, so we didn't get to our hotel room until 2:00. In the morning. And we lost 30 minutes because Newfoundland is a half hour ahead of Halifax. (We've now heard of three places that are a half hour different rather than jumping ahead a full hours.) We enjoyed sleeping in a little before meeting the Sisters Friday morning to borrow their car to do a little sightseeing. Our first stop was Cape Spear. It is the easternmost point in Canada, and of course all of North America. According to one website, "Stand here with your back to the sea and the entire population of North American is to the west of you. Face the sea and the next stop east is Ireland." It was a cold, drizzly day, but we enjoyed walking around the area. There are also two lighthouses, a WWII defense battery (guarding North America from German U-boats), art museum, and gift shop.

The oldest lighthouse in Newfoundland (no longer in operation)
The new lighthouse

Rough water

A picture of a picture of what it looks like on a clear day
     The museum has the works of one artist (don't remember his name) who painted pictures of all 81 lighthouses on Newfoundland, and it only took him 2 1/2 years. He did it while he was working full time and just painted in his free time.

     We had great weather while the kids were here, so we figured we were paying for it on this trip. We went to a lot of places, but didn't see as much as we would have liked.

     Our next stop was Signal Hill. For some reason the road was closed to cars but we could walk up.

     Later that afternoon we snapped a picture of it from our hotel room after the rain stopped.

     We went to a museum called The Rooms. It had lots of interesting exhibits, but we faded fast and didn't check them all out. On our way back to the hotel for naps, we passed this basilica built in the mid 1800s:

     It's always surprising to go inside of a basilica or cathedral and look out through the beautiful stained glass windows that look so plain and drab on the outside.

     St. John's is known for its Jellybean Row Houses. They're called that because they look like jelly beans stacked up in a row, all colors of the rainbow. Here's one shot of just a few, but there are streets and streets and streets lined with Jellybean Row Houses.

     Saturday night was the adult meeting for District Conference. The uplifting talks were very good, and there were some things said in the talks that we needed to hear. Afterward they had a potluck dinner with lots and lots of food and then some entertainment. They had arranged for a group called the Perlin Players, which that night consisted of 7 Special Needs people lip syncing. The Perlin Players have been going for 30 years and have won awards. We'd been told about them before dinner and wondered how well they would be able to pull it off. The answer is very well. Amazingly well. The first song was a guy performing Frank Sinatra's "My Way." If we hadn't known better, we would have thought he was really singing.
Mr. Sinatra
The back up singers mimicked oohing and ahhing perfectly. The drummer had all the right moves at the right times and the guitarists strummed along, looking slightly bored like many guitarists do. Then they switched instruments and a lady did a Leslie Gore tune. Throughout the evening they took turns on the drums, keyboard, violin, trumpet, guitars, sax, and harmonica. One fun part of the evening was when the lady at the keyboard had to make an emergency exit but everything else continued--the music, the other singers, the whole show. All in all, it was a delightful evening.


      Driving back to our hotel Elder Holbrook noticed a nearby street on the GPS, so we turned and drove down our street. There was also a Holbrook Place next to it. It's fun to be famous!


     Sunday was the 15th anniversary of 9/11. There is an article about the role Newfoundlanders played in dealing with diverted flights. Very interesting, very moving. Newfoundlanders are like that.

     Sunday after the meetings and interviews were over, we found we had a little time before we needed to head back to the airport, so President and Sister Pratt said they'd like to go to Cape Spear (they hadn't ever been there before). It was a beautiful, sunny day, so we saw a little more than we had on the rainy Friday.
President and Sister Pratt
     We were surprised to see the surf was a lot wilder on a sunny day than it had been during the storm. We stood and watched the waves for a long time, mesmerized

What a difference a little sun makes!

     Life is kind of like the weather. Those buildings were there in the rain, but we had a hard time seeing them. However, add a little light, and things become clear.

     God has been so good to us. We love having this opportunity to spend a little of our time to give back to Him in gratitude.