Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Aloha from Paradise!


We're here!  We arrived last Wednesday.  Here's our blessings from Day One:

Our first view of the islands
  1. We had GREAT seats!  Front row of Coach.  And just two seats so it was just Elder Jones and I - not that we don't like people, but it sure was lovely not sitting in the middle seat.
  2. We arrived early!
  3. We were able to pick up our car, Marvin - this really is amazing, because we were scheduled to arrive at 2:40 and the transport company was scheduled to close at 3:00.  Since we knew that that would mean another 3 hours drive back and forth from La'ie, this was going to end up being a hassle.  Lo and behold (as I mentioned) we were early AND we when we called, Matson said that they were going to stay open until 3:30.  Zipitty Zoom we went and we were happily reunited with out car.  Poor Marvin had a couple of scrapes - but otherwise, none the worse for wear.  He's going to go thru a whole lot more just being here on the island, so we are counting ourselves lucky.
  4. We were taken to dinner at a local hamburger joint that had FANTASTIC burgers (including this amazing avocado veggie burger for me) I can already tell I'm going to have to work hard to not become a member of what they call around here the "40 pound mission".  
We were then dropped off at our new home.  It is a 'pretty close to finished' apartment built as a top floor over the home of a family of 6 - Keni and Rachel Kalama and their 4 really adorable girls Kalia (11), Aotea (8), Raiha (5) and Ani (6 weeks). 
Quick preview of cuteness
which is Raiha
...and more cuteness...
which is Aotea

And this is Keni, his father Danny
and Elder Jones in his Hawaiian missionary attire at Danny Kalama's
home on the seashore.
Anyhoot, the apartment is it's own floor.  It has windows on all four sides so we get to really take advantage of the tradewinds, which is wonderful.  I haven't felt unbearably hot yet.  Sure, it's a little toasty around 4:00 pm, but that won't bother me as I will be at the Administrative Offices during that time, and they have air conditioning.  The apartment is not large, but it's everything we need.  It may be just rewards that our kitchen has a two-burner hotplate and an on-the-counter toaster oven, just like what we provided the missionaries who lived in our Sequim home.  So here's what I've learned: Throw a crockpot in there, and grab some pans from the 2nd hand store and we are perfectly fine.  This all adds up to Blessing #5:  We love our apartment and we LOVE our landlords!

We are in a sweet little town., though I'm still trying to say "La'ie" right. It's NOT pronounced how it's spelled - at least in boring mainland language - If I want to say it correctly, I don't even dare look at the spelling.  There are about four variations, but most people agree that the pronunciation is: "LAH - ee  - aye".
We must say, the living is excellent here.  We've been to the beach every evening.  We LOVE the beach, and I'm perfectly happy to be able to jump in after the sun drops below the trees.  (Blessing #6)  Of course, we're just newbies.  It will not be like this starting this week - there is so much to do.

Elder Jones next to an authentic replica of a Hawaiian sailing ship
about to be launched (well, actually, it took two days to get it
all the way into the water.)

Day Two - the ship prepares to sail away

Just another stretch of road heading towards La'ie
I won't lie - our first morning here I was a sobbing mess.  If I don't know what I'm up to and why, I have a hard time with change.  And then there was the most adorable picture of our youngest grandbaby right there on Facebook when I woke up.  Here, I'll show you:

Now, seriously.  Can you blame me for missing this little cutie?
By the way, any picture of any of our darling grandchildren could
have produced the same results...
So, the waterworks began.  But Heavenly Father let me have about a 10 minute pity party and then threw me into the middle of training.  We have been kept extremely busy since then and I've grown to love it here more and more each day.

We were fast-tracked on our orientation and Elder Jones started working in the Facilities Engineering Dept. today.  How true to form for a facilities department:  meetings, meetings and more meetings.  The most significant part of his day way going to a birthday luncheon.  They are really hyped about the experience base he's bringing to the table.  He's hoping he can live up to their expectations.

I am going to be working in the Administration Office - something around Marketing / Website.  I'm a little nervous, but excited too.  I did not start today.  I had the fun task of going to get Marvin (our car - remember?)  registered.  This first task on the list was to go to Sears to get a safety inspection.  FIVE HOURS LATER.....I was driving off to get our car insurance.  What was meant to be a one day excursion is going to turn into THREE trips.  I now have to actually get the car registered, and THEN have the silly car reinspected.  It's all so convoluted, and makes no sense to me, but this is the Hawaiian way, I'm told.  The good news is that I had a shopping stop at Ross for the household items I desperately needed.  Our landlord's mom Robyn, went with me.  She is a DELIGHT!  I haven't been shopping for anything besides food in a couple of months - so besides the crazy wait at Sears, it was a really lovely day.  So, shopping buddy = Blessing #7

We have been assigned to a University Married Ward for church.  This means that we will be attending church with married college students and that my job really is going to be "grandma extraordinaire"! Obviously this is Blessing #8, and it's probably the best blessing of all!  We didn't get the word until after church yesterday, so we haven't been to that ward yet, so I just can't wait until next Sunday!  There are members from EVERYWHERE!  All of the islands, all over Asia, some from Africa and so very many from Utah. Our Bishop is Tahitian and is supposed to be a very happy, wonderful and (if you can believe it) organized man.  Hurrah!

Now, I have promised to drop back down to writing on this blog once a month now that we're here....so I'm going to keep to that promise....hard as it may be.  Look for our next edition at the first of next month.

So, to close, here are our missionary thoughts:

This comes from our church's publication, Preach My Gospel, Chapter 1 "What is My Purpose as a Missionary":

You are surrounded by people. You pass them on the street, visit them in their homes, and travel among them. All of them are children of God, your brothers and sisters. God loves them just as He loves you. Many of these people are searching for purpose in life. They are concerned for their families. They need the sense of belonging that comes from the knowledge that they are children of God, members of His eternal family. They want to feel secure in a world of changing values. They want “peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come” (D&C 59:23), but they are “kept from the truth because they know not where to find it” (D&C 123:12).
The gospel of Jesus Christ ....will bless their families, meet their spiritual needs, and help them fulfill their deepest desires. Although they may not know why, they need relief from feelings of guilt that come from mistakes and sins. They need to experience the joy of redemption by receiving forgiveness of their sins and enjoying the gift of the Holy Ghost.

These words, and the scriptures they reference, hit me so hard when I read them this week.  We've been given this great opportunity to share the wonderful, important, life altering message with people that God not only knows them, but loves them completely.  No matter who we are - no matter what we believe - it's important to feel loved and to learn that we are important and needed.  I haven't even been here one week and I already love these people, love this land and love this mission.  Most of all, I love the Savior so completely that I am excited to share His gospel.

All our love and wishes for health and happiness.

Nina and Ron / Mom and Dad / Grandma and Grandpa / Elder and Sister Jones

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Okay, so we're not in Hawaii.....yet! Our week at the MTC (that turned into a week and a half)

First off, let's get past the elephant in the room.

Seems it takes more than a hurricane to keep the Jones out of Hawaii.  It takes TWO!  Hurricane Iselle has done its best to shake things up and Hurricane Julio is riding in on her wake.  We were ready to slip in between storms and arrive yesterday, but received a call late Thursday from the PCC explaining that it might be too dangerous to drive the 1 1/2 hours from La'ie to the airport to get us.  Okay, all desires to be of service aside, we wouldn't want to place anyone in danger, so we are staying a few more days in toasty Provo instead....and having a marvelous time!

When we received our call, I did as I always do and started looking on-line for what life would be like for us.  Though there were lots of videos, I didn't find a lot about Senior Missionary couples - so, here is what life is like for old coots in the MTC.

Things were a little tense in the Jones van driving into Provo.  G'ma was nervous, G'pa had already turned his hearing aids off, and Mike Jones missed his turn.  Right about then, Ronan said "I gotta go....bad!"  Yep, a typical adventure for the Jones Family.

Various disasters addressed and/or adverted, including a disagreement over whether we could stop and get just one more picture before entering the gates, and Mike's van was ushered into the hallowed grounds of the Missionary Training Center. Immediately upon stepping out of the van Ron and Nina Jones were whisked into the greeting center, inspected, fluffed, stamped and directed back out the door, amazingly transformed into Elder and Sister Jones - ta dah!!!!

Time for two quick pics, just to appease Sister Jones and the family was kindly ushered back out the gate faster than Sister Jones' tear ducts could start flowing.  Two elders-in-training stepped from the throng of young men waiting to help and ushered us over to our residential quarters.  What a well oiled machine! Somehow I think it was specifically planned that way to save us women from spoiling our make-up.

Elder Jones kindly pointed to the package given to us and said "Look dear, a check-list just for you!"  Well, yes, I do love a well organized checklist.  Feeling back in control, I got out my pen and we started checking off our tasks....drop off luggage, CHECK ....go to bookstore, CHECK....get printed passes, CHECK ...lunch, CHECK.  By 1:00 p.m. we were meeting our trainers and fellow dazed and dazzled new missionary couples where we were divided into 'Districts'.  This was our 'district':

Yes, I'm standing funny - we were trying to get me shorter than
Elder Jones so that you could see him....but he still managed
to hide....
By 4:30 pm we were back in the cafeteria stuffing ourselves silly and by 6:30 pm  we working on our assignment for the next day.  We were in bed by 10:30 pm...because we are good and dutiful missionaries now (oh, and because there is no television here - which trust me, is a very good thing!)

Here is what senior missionary quarters look like at the MTC:

Basically, we have a very comfortable and clean motel room with better pictures and no kids running up and down the halls.  Also, I noticed right away that I never need to open a door.  These elders have been well trained by their momma's.  I feel like royalty! 

What, you may ask, do Senior Missionaries learn at the MTC?  Well, let me tell you what it's NOT about: It's not about statistics, or goals or learning how to convince people to be a "Mormon".  A District President explained that the MTC experience is really designed to get us missionaries in touch with the Holy Ghost - to recognize his presence and to learn how to utilize his promptings.  I think he's right!

But just to be clear, we do have a specific motto, which reads:

Now, Elder Jones' and my specific mission will be 'facilities maintenance' focused - but our first duty is to serve, lift, and represent and we will always be looking for opportunities to do that, especially with the students attending BYU-Hawaii.  Many of these students are far away from their home, probably for the first time in their lives.  Making sure that they are well taken care of, loved and happy - well, it will be an honor to do whatever we can.

Day 2 of training consisted mostly of reviewing and discussing the tenants of our belief, the love of our Savior, the joy of the Gospel and the meaning of "If you love Me, feed My sheep".  Tuesday evening was topped off with a wonderful devotional with a great speaker and an angelic choir of young men and women singing like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir itself.

Day 3 was a little more nerve-wracking.  We got to practice teaching real people.  But it turned out to be amazingly fantastic. It really was all about talking to people about Jesus Christ, loving them for who they are, and helping them answer questions and fulfill needs.  I could wax on and on about our experiences, but I think it is sufficient to say that I just loved the day, loved the people, and felt more fulfilled and comfortable that I could have dreamt possible.

Elder Jones, of course, was Elder Jones.  This was old hat to him.  Not that he didn't have a good experience - but he always has good experiences because he has always been so open about his faith and so ready to lift others.  But he did have a special added treat of getting his first 'official' missionary haircut.  He looks FABULOUS, by the way!

Wednesday evening we went to the Provo Temple, which is right across the street - here is a picture.  Isn't that canyon and those mountains glorious?

On Thursday we had some more training, more practice, and more insight into the scriptures and how they bring peace and direction into our lives.  Here is one that struck me especially strong:

3 Nephi 27:21 Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do;

This is also the day that Hawaii contacted us and told us to cool our heels for about a week.

Friday was filled with final instructions and many good-byes.  Out of our original 150 couples, we are down to about 20.  These couples are receiving instructions specific to their mission call.  We're going to spend Monday and Tuesday having office training.

Friday evening we were picked up by our son Mike and his beautiful wife, Havilah and whisked off to a sushi dinner (well, sushi for the men - we women stayed on the well-done side of the menu) and a lovely walk around the new temple (old tabernacle) site in downtown Provo.  We stumbled across a make-shift visitor's center that the local members keep staffed to answer questions and give a great view of the on-going progress.  Here is a link to a blog that has wonderful photos and information: http://newtempleinprovo.blogspot.com

Saturday was our personal day (called "P-Day" out in the field).  We washed clothes, cleaned our space, exercised, and visited some dear sisters who lived in our home while serving in Sequim.

Sara Chronister was our first Sister Missionary
Crystal Givens was our last Sister Missionary

While we're at it, we also met up with Sarah Workman, who we watched grow up in Sequim.  We get to see her most everyday as she works in the MTC cafeteria.  What a joy it is to see her!
(this actually turns out to be an 'illegal' photo as
we've been asked not to take pictures in the cafeteria...oops)
Sunday has been the best day of all.  We've attended TWO sacrament meetings (the first one in Portuguese because the one we were suppose to attend was full), Music and the Spoken Word, a real tear jerker of a Relief Society meeting (while Elder Jones says his Priesthood Meeting was 'fine') and will be going to two devotionals tonight.  For those of you who don't know, devotionals are for all missionaries and are rather like firesides on steroids.  The spirit there is so strong, and so tender.  Two in one night is quite the jackpot!

And that, our dear friends, is life in the MTC.  Hopefully this will be helpful for those who might be considering a mission in the future.  If you are, we suggest the following:

  1. Throw expectations away - the MTC experience is better than you could possibly imagine, and the staff, volunteers and employees are so helpful and supportive.  This is sacred ground, dedicated to the service of the Lord, and you feel it.
  2. You will meet missionaries who are preparing to preach throughout the world.  The senior missionaries in our group are going to Washington DC, Kayenta, Arizona, Edmonton, Canada, Scotland, Ireland, Scottsdale, AZ and (of course) La'ie, Hawaii.  The youth missionaries are going to places like Korea, Japan, France, Czechoslovakia, Turkey, Russia, etc., etc (including the good ol' USA).  When we ask these young men and women where they're going, we usually get to say "wow", and then they ask us where we are going and they say "oooooooooooooohhhhh".  Heavenly Father loves His children throughout the world - and being a part of this movement is such a humbling experience.  There are flagpoles that encircle the east and south sides of the campus displaying the flags of the countries these missionaries are going to.  So many poles, so many flags.  That in itself is a wonder to see.
  3. Go on a diet now, because these people seem to want to fatten you up for the future.  So much food! We began skipping meals after a while....we just couldn't keep up.  Thank goodness there is an exercise gym and plenty of places to go on a walk.  By the way, the cafeteria accommodates many various food restrictions and diets but also caters to youthful gluttony (you moms know what I mean.)
  4. There is easy access to the temple.  We hear tell this is the busiest temple of all.  It seems like it. Still, they are prepared for the masses and hold sessions every 20 minutes.  We have greatly enjoyed our visits there.
  5. Be prepared to learn a lot - feel a lot - cry a lot - and smile a lot.

Missionary Reflections:

Here is a quote from our manual entitled "Preach My Gospel":  

Faith is a principle of power. God works by power, but His power is usually exercised in response to faith (see Moroni 10:7). He works according to the faith of His children. Doubt and fear are opposed to faith.

This picture is one of many that hangs in the hallways of the buildings here:

Of course, it is a picture of a baptism.  You may notice on the left-hand side some men with spears and other weapons.  They are there to fend off the alligators.  Now Elder Jones and I are not being asked to jump into alligator infested waters, but just like this missionary and the person being baptized, we are asked to exercise our faith by trusting Heavenly Father and prioritizing His gospel over our comforts and personal safety.

We have a testimony of this great work, the love of our Heavenly Father, the divinity of Jesus Christ and the influence of the Holy Ghost upon the hearts of those seeking truth and happiness.  We are grateful for all of your interest in our humble little blog and hope that it reflects our love and joy in serving this mission.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Today's the Day! Entering the MTC

Well, this is it, our first OFFICIAL mission blog.  Finally, after planning, hoping and praying, we are on our mission.  It has seemed like FOREVER!  We are in Provo, entering the Missionary Training Center for 5 days.

This blog is probably going to be a work in progress.  I'm thinking we should cover the following areas:

#1:  What interesting thing happened this day/week/month, etc.

#2:  Pictures!

#3.  Reflections on our mission.

So, here we go -

Interesting experiences.

This last week has been pretty monumental.  We drove away from Sequim and our beautiful home - but that's alright because we left it in the hands of a lovely and very capable couple.  Their names are Juanice and John.  They are from Albuquerque.  He just retired and she is a nurse who will look for a job up there in a little while.  If you're in Sequim, you should go and meet them.  They're fantastic!

We dropped Marvin (the Kia) off at the shippers.  He is now sailing the high seas on his way to Hawaii.  The update page says he's arriving the 6th, which means he will beat us by 3 days.

Our visit with Ron's brother Chuck and sister Linda outside of Austin, Texas was short but wonderful.

Chuck treated us to a delicious dinner at a local steakhouse where Ron ordered FROG LEGS (shudder).  I had the wonderful salad bar.  Linda shared her prime rib.  Chuck had chicken fried steak.  And we were stuffed.  Should have figured that this was a shadow of things to come because since our time in Texas, we have continued the cycle.  There isn't a day that goes by where we do not find ourselves going to bed groaning and moaning over the amount of food eaten.  This obviously means a diet will soon be in order.  Unfortunately (though it sounds fun), it appears that the senior missionaries at the Polynesian Cultural Center (hereafter referred to as the PCC) eat together constantly.  I'm going to have to come up with a plan or Ron and I are going to have to get a whole new wardrobe!

We then flew to North Carolina where we first saw Veronica, Josh and the kids.  We had a blast!  Those kids are the best and brightest.  Veronica and Josh work so hard to give them the experiences and knowledge for a full and purposeful future - so proud.

Then we took off for the west side of North Carolina to see our oldest, Trina, Preacher Richard and their whole family, including our first visit with great granddaughter Eden.  We had great talks with all of them, lots of hikes and swimming and fun in the sun - plus a continuation of the food orgy.  Oy!  Really enjoyed church on Wednesday and the honor of researching and building their genealogy forms on-line.

The last three days have been with Mike, Havilah and their kids here in Provo.  These kids are so loving and articulate.  It's just fun to sit and play with them.  Havilah and Mike are extremely attentive and involved in their children's life, and it really shows.

I am so grateful that we have been able to see each and every child and grandchild (including Audra, Marrott and McKinnley's joyous visit before we left Sequim.)  These people are our lives blood.  They are so important to us.  The MOST important ... and we want them to know that they give us our purpose and vision.  It has been so hard saying good-bye to those who have my heart, but thanks to modern technology, it's not as hard as - say - 20 years ago.  Hurrah for Skype and Facebook....What a blessing!

We also feel the support and prayers of our many, many beautiful friends. If I had the time and the room, I would list you all personally and regal the world with your many beautiful attributes and all of the ways you've helped and influenced us in the past few months.  We think of you often and take your love with us.

Missionary Reflections

This is very simple and straight forward.  We are so honored and humbled to have this opportunity to give our efforts and focus for the next couple of years to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We can testify boldly and without hesitation that He is our Lord, our Savior, and our loving Elder Brother.  We have no doubt that this experience will be hard, but also that it will be the best experience we could ever hope to have.  Yes, going to Hawaii is exciting - but we would be equally thrilled to be going anywhere He would send us.  We really would.  This next week will be our springboard experience.  We will be with other new missionaries in the MTC preparing and learning how we can serve both Heavenly Father and our fellow man.  I, personally, am excited for this opportunity to learn how to exercise faith while letting go of the reins.  I think it's exactly what I need - which is handy since this is the model that the Apostles of Old laid out in their lives.  They weren't perfect, especially in the beginning, but God molded them into spectacular instruments in His hands, and all they had to do was have the faith to step out of their little boats, walk to the shore and begin a journey based strictly on faith.  No conditions and no road map.  That's how it is with us.  We really know very, very little - but we know this:  Our family, our friends and the people we are allowed to serve will be blessed; and we will learn and experience things beyond anything we could imagine.

We ask for your prayers and appreciate your support and interest.  We invite you to ask questions, give advice and remain a part of our lives along the way.

We'll check back in once we arrive in Hawaii.  I'm sure that we will have lots and lots to tell you!