Wednesday, June 27, 2012

WE'RE FLYING OUT TOMORROW - The Travel department called today and said the Church lawyers had determined that it was alright to go ahead and used the employment visas to get into India and that they will work out any issues once we are in country, so we are on a plane tomorrow morning.  I guess we will have faith that all will be well (What does the Apostle Paul say about faith - the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen). We fly from SLC to Chicago, then to London, then on to New Delhi.  The trip will take about about 26 hours including layovers.  We arrive in New Delhi at 11:30 p.m. Thursday night their time.

Provo Utah Temple
We had a great experience at the temple today.  Yesterday while looking at our family history, we noticed that Paul's paternal grandparents had not been sealed in the temple (sealed means they were not united in marriage for eternity, which is a very important and a key doctrine in the church that families and family relationships exist beyond this life).  This morning we had the privilege to act as proxies for them to perform that ordinance in the Provo temple.  It was a great way to conclude our time in Provo.

Being our last day in the US, we honored our Texas roots and had Mexican food for lunch at Maria Bonita's Mexican Grill in Orem.  If you are ever up this way, it's worth the stop.  Excellent! our last indulgence were milk shakes at Sammy's, a hole in the wall burger place at Center and 100 West, right behind the Provo Marriott.  We told ourselves that we weren't going to drink them all, and we didn't (but we won't tell you how much we left - not much). Again, definitely worth the stop for either a great burger or shake.
This is the last post for us from the States.  We look forward to continuing our blog once we are in India.  Wish us well...we're excited and look forward to new experiences.        

Monday, June 25, 2012

This past week we have continued our daily routine of going to the temple, studying and doing genealogy indexing (digitizing census records so they can be accessed on the Internet by those doing family history research for their ancestors).  The 1940 US Census was released in April of this year and through the efforts of many volunteers of all faiths, approximately 50% of the Census has already been indexed. 

Thursday and Friday we helped move the Provo Mission office to its new digs right off Center Street in Provo and 600 East, which was previously used for early morning seminary for the high school aged kids in the Church. 

Saturday night we met with our new Mission President and his wife, President and Sister Sackley (I missed the photo op this time).  They were serving a 18 mission in Hong Kong when they were called to serve in India.  They are a great couple and we look forward to serving with them.  They hail from Canada, and were able to get their visas and will be leaving for India this coming Thursday.  We are envious and wish we were joining them...

VISA NEWS - we got a visa last week (but wait there's more).  It was the wrong type, so the Church sent it back and is trying to get it reissued correctly.  We are trying to get an EV visa, which stands for Employment - Volunteer.  It's a relatively new visa type and the India Consulate in the US hasn't issued any, so we're blazing new ground.  The Consulate issued an Employment visa to us, which sounds like it could work, but the Church wants to ensure there is no misunderstanding or misrepresentation of what we will be doing when we get there.  Despite our frustration, we appreciate the stance of the Church is doing things absolutely correct.  We hopefully will know more this coming week. 

This week is when the new mission presidents are at the MTC for training before going to their assignments.  There are approximately 110 new presidents and their wives here this week (which represents about 1/3 of all the mission presidents worldwide).  While they are here, the normal MTC schedule gets changed around a lot, so instead of going to church at the MTC, we decided to go to church in the area we lived when we were students. After Sacrament Meeting, we stood up and turned around to see Paul's sister-in-law, Ruth Ann Lowe and her husband, and Paul's nephew Trevor (we didn't know it was their ward).  Then we go to the next meeting (Sunday School, in Mormon vernacular) and see Kristy Sevy (Clayton was home with food poisoning from the night before)... small world.         
Earlier this past week we took a ride up American Fork canyon and drove the Alpine Loop that connects American Folk with Provo.  This picture was taken at the summit.  It was a beautiful day and very clear.  Since then the tempertures have gotten unseasonally warm, so most of the snow you see has melted.  The hot temperatures and dry conditions have resulted in numerous fires in the Utah Valley resulting in mandatory evacuations in Eagle Mountain and Saratoga Springs and very smoking conditions throughout the area.   

Thursday, June 21, 2012

We were off on our daily walk in the afternoon and who do we meet at the front door of the Marriott?  Sterling and Tiffany Schmutz and their boys from our home Stake in Spring, Tx. We couldn't miss a photo op.

We finished our shot regiment this morning.  Contrary to the the info we received regarding required shots, when we got to the MTC, we were each 4 shots short (it serves us right for  bragging when we first came that we had every shot possible because we lived in Nigeria... ha).  We needed boosters for Typhoid, Polio and the infamous Japanese Encephalitis - a 2 shot series 28 days apart (have we really been here a month?).  It hurt less in the arm, than it did in the wallet - who'd know that shots could cost that much.      

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

We're back in Provo in our home way from home at the Marriott.  No news on our visas.  We did learn that the young Elders that were waiting, got their visas and will be going this week, but we are still on hold.  Maybe we'll hear something more tomorrow. 

Another small 'tender mercy' was when we were renting a car at the airport to come back to Provo.  We've been concerned that with all that we have accumulated, that we wouldn't have enough space in the car for all our luggage going back to the airport when we finally leave.  When we got to the car rental ticket counter, they told us they were out of sedans, and would we be willing to take an SUV at no additonal charge?  Problem solved...

With no news on the visas and gong a little stir-crazy not being more productive, Bryan suggested that we contact the Provo Mission office to see if there was anything we could volunteer for, so we did.  As it turns out the mission office is moving this week and need extra help boxing and moving on Thursday and Friday.  Thanks Bryan for that inspiration.

Another great devotional tonight at the MTC with Elder Lynn Robbins and his wife talking about receiving revelation through reading the scriptures, pondering and praying to seek understanding and guidance.    
Blessing of Camille Rose Stevens
We had a wonderful weekend with 3 of 4 of our children and their families.  Tyler and Julie and their boys, Zachary and Brandon had other family from out of town visiting, so they were not able to come to Dallas.  We had lots of time with both the grandkids and an evening out with the adults to celebrate Father's Day.  Both the baby blessing and the ordination and setting apart of Bryan as Second Counselor in the Bishopric was special to us.  Leaving to go back to Utah was tough with more tearful good byes, but worth the trip.   

Friday, June 15, 2012

Another blessing has come into our lives as a result of our visa delay.  Our oldest son, Bryan, was recently called to be in his ward bishopric and called to ask if his Dad could ordain him a High Priest (the office of the Priesthood required to be in a bishopric).  What a great privledge and honor to be asked.  We got approval from the MTC Mission President to leave, and we're headed to Dallas tomorrow morning.  And the icing on the cake is we'll be there to help bless their new baby girl, Camille Rose. 
Today we had lunch with our very good friends, Gary and Sherry Neuder.  We first met the Neuder's in Lagos where we both worked for ExxonMobil.  Gary retired from EM in Nigeria and was very shortly thereafter called to be the Mission President of the Nigeria Lagos mission.  They returned about a year ago, and have recently been called on their second mission to Pittsburg, Pennsylvania as member and leader support missionaries for 18 months.  They are here this week for their mission training and will be leaving tomorrow for Pennsylvania.

With still no news on our visa status, we decided to go to the Manti Temple yesterday. Manti is a small town in central Utah about 90 miles south of Provo. We were married in Manti July 29, 1975, so this year we will be celebrating our 37th wedding anniversary. We couldn't remember the last time we went to Manti. We had forgotten how beautiful and ornate the temple is, which was built and dedicated in 1888.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Yesterday was "graduation day".  We completed the Church Employment training with our adopted family of welfare service missionaries.  All of those in the picture will be serving in Church employment centers throughout the US.  We really enjoyed getting to know them and wish them well as they head out for their locations.  We were taught by Brother Jeff Foy (back row, far left) who developed the Career Workshop that is presented in all of the LDS Employment Centers.  It's an impressive course and has been proven to prepare people for employment and get them a job sooner than otherwise.

We have a new appreciation for the training and the resources available to help people, whether they are church members or not, find employment that fits their skills.  The Church as one of the largest job databases in the country, and is constantly working with employers to post their job openings.  We're also impressed with the seniors that have accepted a call to serve a mission.  We love to hear their stories of why they have chosen to serve.  They are all great people.

For those of you who are still wondering if we are "really" going to India, stay tuned.  There are efforts afoot to see what the holdup is, but as they say, things move slowly in India.  The legal counsel in India secured by the Church is attempting to contact the Houston Indian Consolate, but due to time zone differences, it may take some time.  We currently have no departure date.  We're keeping ourselves busy attending the temple, studying, (attempting) to memorize some key scriptures (watch out early morning seminary students, we have our own set of scripure mastery cards), and looking for opportunities to volunteer.     

Monday, June 4, 2012

Yesterday was transfer day... no not to India, just down the hall.  Apparently they needed to repair the carpet.  Three rooms in a week must be a record.  We decided we needed to get more cultural enlightenment on India, so we went to the movie, "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel".  If you haven't heard of it, it's about a number of British retirees that decide to go to Jaipur, India (very close to New Delhi) because it would be cheaper.  They were presented with a number of unexpected experiences.  Well it didn't scare us away.  If you are thinking about going, remember that it's target demographic is over 50. 

Later that night we had a pleasant surprise.  Duane and Bobbie Sevy with Clayton and Kristy, and their daughter Kensie, took us to dinner for Angela's birthday.  It was great to see them again and catch up on things at home.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ANGELA!!!!  We celebrated by having another great meal at the MTC cafeteria - the consequence of having a birthday on Sunday.  Just kidding Sister Stevens, we'll celebrate tomorrow.

Today we had Mission Conference where members of the Mission Training Center Presidency talked to all the missionaries on several gospel topics including faith, prayer, the atonement of Jesus Christ, and the importance of honoring your name.  A scripture that was particularly impacting to us is when the prophet Helaman, talking to his sons, said, '...Behold, I have given unto you the names of our first parents who came out of the land of Jerusalem; and this I have done that when you remember your names ye may remember them; and when ye remember them ye may remember their works; and when ye remember their works ye may know how that is is said, and also written, that they were good." (Hel 5:6)

We were able to talk to all our kids and grandkids via Apple FaceTime.  What a great blessing to see and talk with all of our grandkids.  It's the next best thing to being there.  It will make being so far way in India not feel so far away. 

This coming week we have additional training on the church welfare and employment services.  This along with our training on how to present the gospel, and how to work in the mission office will make us the most qualified missionaries with no place to go... but we have hope something will happen this week. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

 We were suppose to be on a plane for India on Monday, Memorial Day, but since we weren't, we spent part of the day going to the Payson Cemetary to see Paul's family.  Much of his Mom's side of the family that have passed on are there, including his grandparents, parents and an older brother, Alan.  There were a lot of people there (both alive and otherwise) for the holiday and the cemetary was very pretty with the tall trees and extensive flowers to commemorate those that had served this country.  This war memorial is at the front of the cemetary and Paul's Dad's name is listed on the "wall" of WWII veterans. 

 The "coincidences" continue.  So on Sunday after Relief Society (the Sunday meeting for the women in the church), Angela begins talking to another member (among at least 200), and found out she and her husband (Val and Laura Dunn) returned about 4 years ago after having served as humanitarian missionaries in New Delhi.  AND on top of that they had a member of our soon to be new branch staying with them (almost scary isn't it).  The member, Sister Swarupa Katuka is here in Provo visiting her daughter, Timnah, who is aa BYU student.  They invited us to dinner on Monday night and we had a great time learning more about New Delhi over another great Indian dinner at the India Palace (which is just across the street from where we are staying).  Talk about a small world.  (PS, so we go to the temple on Thursday, and Paul just happens to mention to one of the temple workers that we are going to India, and she says "oh, my bishop, when I was growing up, went to India.  His name was Bishop Dunn - yes one in the same) 

Tuesday and Wednesday were full of additional training on office procedures.  The Church has developed a internet based system called IMOS (Internet Missionary Office System) that can do almost anything you need in the mission field.  We have to admit we were pretty exhausted after sitting in a classroom for 8 hours each day. 

Today, Thursday, we've come to accept our delay (isn't acceptance one of the 5 steps in the grieving process?) and decide to start an exercise routine.  We put on our walking clothes (and our name badges - we wear them always) and go out for a nice walk up Center Street in Provo.  We saw this statue on our walk and thought it was pretty neat (translate: "awesome", for those of the younger generation).   After attending the temple, Angela looks me straight in the eye and says, "We're not eating at the MTC" (I thought the food was pretty good there) so we went to Los Hermanos in honor of our daughter-in-law, Michelle, who loves their chimicangas.  Michelle, we dedicate this lunch to you.  Tonight we're studying.  Maybe tomorrow we'll know more about our visa status...