Monday, June 9, 2014


We can't believe that we're leaving for home in four days. There has been a whirlwind of activity that we've been involved with over the past month or so. I'll try to include some pictures of these last precious days. Although we will not be participating in any other baptisms, still we have witnessed five during our five months here, and have witnessed so many other miracles. Today we will be participating for the second time with the YSA group - this time going for a walk around the cliffs of Dunmore East, which is a section of the landscape here in Waterford. The YSA senior couple from Cork is coming here to supervise the activity. It's looking pretty cloudy outside, but the forecast is promising.

Here we are at the All Ireland Conference on May 9:

Such precious friends: our mission president and his wife,
Alan and Sylvia Brown,
and darling Elder Blake Barney

I opened a package of eggs one day and found proof that the chicken came before the egg: 

Here are just a few shots of Ormond Castle in ... can't remember where! But it's only about 30 minutes away from Waterford.

This is me on the zipline at Ballyhass Lakes Resort. We were there with a YSA group from Limerick District. Twenty-seven young men and women between ages 18 and 30. I think I screamed all the way across the lake! But I'd do it again!

This is out of order, but we got a great picture of Elder Rogers today, so I need to post this for his mom:

And here are more picture of the hike we took just today along the coast by Dunmore East:

The Sisters M&M: Montgomery and Martin. Sweet, but strong!

Sister Martin, violinist extraordinaire!

Elder Rogers is so soft-spoken that, if you're not careful, you miss the funny/smart things he says. I have learned a lot from him about humility and grace.

Here is Elder Rogers with Eymard Martin, a newly-ordained elder in Waterford. Eymard is greatly looking forward to receiving his endowment in the Salt Lake Temple this coming October when he comes to attend General Conference and visit with the sister missionaries who first taught him. Eymard had studied a great deal before he ever met the missionaries, so he was golden.

Here is our wonderful Elder Evans. I tried to crop this picture, but my program wouldn't cooperate. Anyway, Elder Evans is so special to us. Like Elder Rogers, he is very humble, but at the same time has such a great knowledge of the gospel for one so young. We absolutely loved every minute we spent with him.

I've got to stop here. It's 6 p.m. and we still have a lot to do to prepare for tomorrow - our last day in the mission and the only day we'll spend touring Dublin. This has been a wonderful, hard year. We're so glad we did it, but we're ready for home. Thanks to everyone who has helped us and prayed for us on this journey. God bless you all.

Elder and Sister Walker
Scotland/Ireland Misson
June 2013 - June 2014

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The winding-up days

Today is Sunday, May 18, 2014. Yesterday and today we were in Limerick for this semi-annual District Conference. This is the same as a Stake Conference, but districts are just smaller. The attendance was very good and last night's meeting, to me, was better, for a few reasons. One was that our darling missionary sisters were asked to take part in it and they did a beautiful job. At one point it occurred to me how much their parents would have loved to have been there to hear them speak. They coordinated the talk so that they went back and forth and in some cases finished each other's sentences. Their subject was the First Vision and each time I hear those words by Joseph Smith when he described what happened to him, I gain a greater testimony of its truthfulness. Last night, after the evening conference session, we stayed in the Bunratty Innisfree B&B in Bunratty - about 13 km northwest of Limerick - and about a mile past the Bunratty Castle. What a castle that is!! I really wish we had had time to take a tour of it. I'll have to, instead, look on line for pictures of the interior.

Since I didn't get much sleep last night, I was sleepy through the whole session today and then all the way home. I tried to take a few notes during the meeting, but I'm not even sure I'll know what the notes meant! The Area Seventy who was in presiding at these meetings was Ruiz de Mendoza from Madrid. He barely had any accent, so that really helped in understanding him.

We are in the process of closing down this house that we have been living in because there is no senior couple coming to replace us. It's just as sad as when we left Sligo and no one replaced us there. In Sligo, we were assured that someone WAS coming, but it didn't happen. Anyway, one of the things we have to do here is go through the inventory book and remove any and every thing that belongs to the SIM (Scotland-Ireland Mission) and give it to other missionaries or members or, in some cases, just throw it away. Some of the linen would fall into that latter category.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Feeling the spirit on Friday, May 2, 2014

This was a great day. And the best part of it was the finish. Tonight we had the elders and sisters over for a salmon dinner and to listen to the famous talk by Hugh B. Brown called "Profile of a Prophet". The feeling among the six of us was relaxed and cheerful. The food was delicious and everyone participated in its preparation. We talked about the things we have in common and about the things that differentiate us. Elder Rogers, who has only been on his mission for a few weeks now, is from Queensland, Australia. He's a soft-spoken gentle man and a pleasure to be around. Sister Martin is from Bountiful and came to the mission the same time as Elder Rogers. She is so sweet and already seems to be so comfortable in the role of missionary. Elder Evans is our District Leader and he, too, is such a gentleman and is so well spoken. And Sister Montgomery rounds out the group as a new trainer, with only three months of missionary experience herself. I truly am so impressed and so moved by the humility of these young people. They help me to seek for that innocence in myself.

Our time here in the SIM (Scotland-Ireland Mission) is coming to a close. We have 5-1/2 weeks left. During the day I feel like the time can't go fast enough, but on nights like this, I feel like there's so much more I'd like to do. The sisters continue to have luck in finding people to teach and in teaching wonderful lessons. The elders have a harder time finding, possibly only because they are not as pretty as the girls. :)

Oddly enough we ourselves found a "potential" for the elders today - he works in the butcher shop in Tesco, the local grocery store. He called us by name (reading our badges) and asked us what church we belonged to. We told him and asked if he had heard of the church. He said he'd heard nothing good nor bad about us and then said, what most people do, "all churches are pretty much alike anyway". We told him, of course, that our church is different largely because of the Book of Mormon. Elder Walker told him about the fact that the B of M is a second witness of Jesus Christ, along with the Bible. He told us that, strangely enough, his last name IS Bible. Well, that's a new one on us! He also said that if he joined any other church his family would disown him. I said, "We've heard that several times, but it's never happened yet." So Elder Walker went out to the car and got him a B of M while I finished buying our salmon and getting his name and phone number. We told him to take a look at the book and the elders would call in a few days to see if he had any questions. Hopefully, this will turn into something great. He appears to be about mid-20s, so he's just the right age to be open minded and ready to listen. We will pray for that.

Zone Development gathering in Limerick on Monday, April 28, 2014. Great craic! The two girls on the far right in the middle picture are our sister missionaries, Sisters Martin and Montgomery. Sister Henkel was transferred to Scotland.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Waterford Branch is growing quickly

Today is the 10-month mark of our 12-month mission. We are astounded at the way our work with the elders and sisters is being blessed. This coming Saturday we will see two more investigators of the Church here be baptized, and Sunday confirmed. Their names are Krystal Rusine (from Congo) and Patrick King (from Ireland). It's interesting how often the sisters are working with the men and the elders with the women. Of course, that always makes it nice for us because they then need us to come on joint teaches with them.

The most amazing new investigator we have now is a Syrian man named E*. The sister missionaries first met and spoke to him about three months ago. He was interested immediately, but couldn't have the lessons then because of a relationship he was in. The relationship ended, however, and then he began trying to find them again. His girlfriend had discarded all the information he had about the Church, so he didn't know how to get in touch with the sisters. In the meantime, a close friend of his, Zacharie, had joined the Church. (See past issues of this blog.) Then one day, very recently, Zacharie came to see E* just "out of the blue". They had a nice visit for about half at hour and then Zacharie told E* that he was now a Mormon! E* was amazed and asked Zacharie if he knew how to get in touch with the sister missionaries. Zacharie said, "Sure, I have their phone number in my phone!" So E* called the sisters - this was on about April 2nd or 3rd - and they went to see him the next day. They taught him a lesson and then told him about General Conference coming up on Saturday and Sunday. He came both days and listened to a total of six hours. And in between times he got on the internet and learned everything he could about the Mormons in his native language - Arabic! He is excited to get the scriptures in Arabic and wants to get a Bible in Arabic as well, but we have been unable to find him one of those. He's just an amazing investigator and we have been going to see him every day with the sisters to teach him about the gospel. Since he needs to attend church three times before he can be baptized, they are going to suggest a baptism date of late April/early May. We are very excited and happy about this.

The flying elders on the bottom are Zander, Johns (Zone Leader), Evans (District Leader), and Davidson (Zone Leader, heading for home within the next week). You can also see them in the picture on top with Sisters Montgomery and Henkel and us. What fun it is to spend this time with these wonderful young people!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Two baptisms and St. Patrick's Day

This morning as I look outside my window I see white, fluffy clouds (nothing new there) and spots of blue shining through. I thrive on those spots of blue. The gray days are very difficult for me. But let's focus on what we have in front of us, shall we? 

Last Saturday we had a baptism of two middle-aged men, one black, one white. One from Congo, one from Ireland. It was a special day and very joyous. Here are some pictures:

These men were both taught by the sisters. Michael Phelan had been taught previously, but just wasn't ready to commit. However, this time around he felt much more assured and was able to go forward. Zacharie Loukombo's biggest obstacle was smoking and it was very hard for him to quit, but he knows it was the Holy Spirit who helped him gain the strength and now he says he has no craving for cigarettes. What a wonderful miracle that is!

This coming Saturday we have another baptism.This time it is a mother of two young children. She is also from Congo, but we don't know if she (Crystal Rusine) and Zacharie know each other yet. Obviously, we are hopeful that they will fall in love and form a beautiful family. However, we don't know how much older Zacharie is than Crystal, so we'll just see what happens. Crystal's' mother and sister have been baptized previously, but Crystal knows the truth now and is ready to commit herself. 

In the picture at the bottom it is Elder Johnson (serving in Cork) and Elder Evans (serving in Waterford) who did the baptisms. Elder Evans served as an extra support for Michael so that he wouldn't bump his head on the way down in the very small font.

Crystal's baptism will take place in Lough Ballyscanlon (Ballyscanlon Lake) which is in Tramore. It's trickier to get to the water, but really a beautiful spot.

Crystal has been an amazing investigator for the elders. When they taught her the lesson about fasting, she told them that this is something she already practices to get closer to the Spirit. When they asked her if knew the Book of Mormon to be true, she told them she had had a dream in which an angel came to her and told her it was true. We have been amazed at the number of African people who are being taught here in Ireland and how readily they are accepting the gospel. There was a large article in the Ensign magazine a month or two back about how willing Africans are to accept the truth and I know first hand that this is true.

One other thing I wanted to mention was the St. Patrick's Day parade. We were actually able to attend the parade here in Waterford with the junior missionaries. It was a beautiful day. I will attach some pictures. I wanted to add a video of the bagpipers below, but it's on my iPhone and I don't know how to do it. Ah, well.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Help for those of you searching your Irish genealogy

This is a slightly different entrance to my blog, but, if you are doing Irish genealogy, I can pretty much guarantee you will be interested in this. 

Elder Walker and I were at a conference in Limerick on Tuesday, March 18th, and there I met a man, John O'Connell, who is participating in a program called "Ireland Reaching Out" or "Ireland XO". At this point in my dialog you might want to typing these words into Google and bring up the website. The purpose of this website is to help people who are searching for their ancestors in Ireland - and the help is coming to you at no cost directly from people who live here and are wanting to help you. Some of these people are LDS, others are not, but they are all deeply interested in genealogy and want to help people outside of Ireland to find their ancestors. 

When I met John, part of my wanting to be in Limerick that day was to try to talk to one or more Catholic priests in one of the five major cathedrals in Limerick City. The great irony is that he had met with a woman just the day before who was ALSO looking for her Roche ancestors. SHE told HIM that all the Roches in Ireland had come from two Roche brothers who had been born in France and had emigrated to Counties Cork and Kerry. These to counties lie directly below County Limerick, so it's easy to see how their descendants could have moved into that county and thereby becoming MY ancestors.

Besides the "Ireland XO" website, John also taught me how to find an unknown wife's name (which, by the way, was exactly what I needed) by going into (which is a paid website, but a very good one) and, after selecting "marriage", on the First Name line typing "%%%", then Spouse's Surname "__________", followed by Spouse's First Name "%%%" or the actual name, if you know it. Also, select the county, if you know it. Sure enough, I brought up about 10 possible names for the wife of my Patrick Roche. Now I can just narrow down that search. Ten is a lot better number that some of the huge numbers I have found previously!

Another way to search for your ancestors in Ireland, if you know what county they hail from is to do a google search on "name" genealogy county "_____". This should bring up some good websites for that particular county. In my case, "Roche genealogy county limerick" brought up six good sites.

Anyway, I was anxious to let my blog followers know about this new information I had learned and I'm hopeful that I will hear from some of you and that we can further help each other. Here is the information about the Irish website and about the broadcasts that Ireland is doing in conjunction with it:

Tar Abhaile ('Come Home')

Hosted by broadcaster Evelyn O’Rourke, Tar Abhaile is a new and inspirational six part series on TG4 that follows local Irish communities as they welcome people from across the globe in search of their Irish ancestors.

Instead of waiting for people of Irish origin to trace their roots, groups of community volunteers tirelessly work together under the auspice of Ireland Reaching Out (or: Ireland XO) to trace those individuals and families who left their local area throughout the 1800’s and 1900’s.  Once they have gathered enough tangible information, they then track down their living descendants and reach out, inviting them back to their spiritual home, to share local knowledge, walk the land of their ancestors, show them their final resting places and where possible, introduce them to long-lost living relatives.  

Over six weeks, the audience will be introduced to 12 different Irish descendants and their families, scattered all over the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK, as they travel to Ireland to reconnect with their Irish roots.  But first we visit each of them to see where and how they live in their respective homelands, but, more importantly, to find out what motivates them to visit Ireland, their ancestral home.  Once they travel over and meet the volunteers who helped them unearth the story of their ancestors, their emotional journey begins.

For the descendants, it proves time and time again to be an extremely moving and humbling experience: as the stories of their forefathers are revealed to them; they walk in the footsteps of their ancestors, visit the homesteads where they lived or bow their heads at their graves… and it often brings a tear to the eye as they gain new insight into their ancestors and they become so much more than just a name on a page.  But nothing beats the experience of meeting living relatives, very often cousins they never knew they even had. 

What really sets Tar Abhaile apart is that it deals with 'living genealogy', bringing it out of the past and giving it a living present as local communities turn 'sleuth', with emotional family reunions taking place and long-lost relatives discovered and uncovered.

Ultimately, Tar Abhaile is about real people and their unique stories, their unique journey and their unique connection with Ireland. It pivots on Reconnection, Reunion and Homecoming.

Happy hunting to all my fellow genealogist-wannabes!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

3 11 2014 Dunbrody ship in New Ross; Waterford Crystal; missionary work

Once again it's been about three weeks between posts. I think I sense a theme.

To keep your interest, I want to tell you about a couple of "field trips" that we've taken the junior missionaries on. The first was to the Dunbrody famine ship in New Ross, Co. Wexford. The second was just yesterday to Waterford Crystal.

Seven years ago, when we first came to Ireland, we happened upon a replica of the Dunbrody "famine" ship which was reportedly commissioned by President Kennedy when he visited Ireland in 1962 (?). Since we were very interested in everything famine-related, we took the tour, and learned a lot from it. Because of this initial experience, we wanted to share it with Elder Coombs, especially, because he was very close to finishing up his mission. So we took him, Elder Zander, and the Sisters - Henkel and Montgomery to see the ship.

These pictures were taken outside the tour building and before we entered the ship itself. Aren't they cute?? Everyone's proud of their home town.

The outside of the ship

The inside of the ship, with Elder Coombs threatening to eat the brick-hard bread and Elder Zander questioning his decision.

Topside again, happy to be spending time together.

I think this really was an educational experience for them and helped them to recognize a little better part of the "baggage" that Irish people carry in their ancestry.

So that was about three weeks ago, and then just yesterday we went with the sisters to see the "new" Waterford Crystal Factory, which was up and running in June 2010 after having shut down in 2008 for economic reasons.

We feel so blessed to be able to spend time with these fine young men and women. When we're not field-tripping, there is a lot of hard work going on. Between the two companionships, they currently have four baptisms lined up over the next month. We couldn't be prouder of them and the high standard they set for us and for everyone who knows them.