Thursday, December 19, 2013

Bad news, good news

I want to tell you about last Tuesday. It was quite a day, jam-packed with missionary-ing.

But before I set forth the details, may I just say that we are desperately worried about my next-older sister, Lynda. Lynda was taken by her husband to the ER last Saturday because she "couldn't breathe." Upon arriving, she was whisked away to the ICU and intubated. Then the tests began - CAT scans, x-rays, blood tests, an MRI. She had a central line put in through her neck to get all the blood pressure medications and antibiotics into her system more quickly. Her blood pressure was extremely low. I don't know if pneumonia was diagnosed immediately, or if it took a while to determine that that was the problem. Anyway, they mostly know now what they're working against, but they still don't know what caused it. I heard that she also had a mass in her arm and that she may need surgery to remove it. Right now they're trying to deal with a high amount of ammonia in her liver. The biggest concern is that she hasn't awakened since Saturday, so that's five days. They did an MRI to determine brain function and she tested out okay for that. Fantastic news! I was greatly relieved on that score. I would be most grateful to anyone who would send up a prayer on Lynda's behalf. She needs a lot of help and I can't bear the thought of losing her, especially when I'm so far away.

So, then, last Tuesday ...

It began with District Meeting in Mullingar. I'm sure I've said before that it takes about two hours to get there and two to get back. (Funny how that works!) In between we had a two hour meeting and then lunch at Subways. Mmm.

We had only been home a few minutes when we had to leave to run over to Globe House. Globe House is a kind of halfway house (again, I've probably talked about this) for people who have fled their country and are waiting to get a visa to either stay and work in Ireland or move somewhere else. Our purpose in going there this time was to help with a little Christmas party for the 50 children who live their with one or both parents.

This is a perfectly terrible picture of them, but really I shouldn't have even taken it because of their status. I was gently reminded of that after I snapped it. I don't think anyone's really recognizable, but you get the general feel. I found this to be a particularly touching occasion because we know people who live in this building, and while it's pretty clean, it's also pretty sterile. And the two men who live here and belong to our branch have both been stuck there for about six years! 

After we finished with the gaiety of the Christmas party and picking up sticky things off the floor, we hustled to our next appointment, which was our last caroling practice before our big performance tomorrow. We've had five practices and I think I probably mentioned that, in desperation, they asked me to be their conductor this year. I was happy to do it and have had to stretch myself a bit to do it, but I've got to say that's it's been a real pleasure to participate in this, and for both Richard and myself it - along with a baptism that was just recently scheduled! - will probably be the highlight of the Christmas season for us here. 

More about the baptism in a minute.

So then after the practice, we ran again back to our apartment to host a youth activity. We had only two young women who came, but we also had the elders, and the YM and YW presidents (a married couple). What we did this night was project the film "Ephraim's Rescue" on our wall and watched it while eating apples and popcorn. We've actually seen this film three times now, but we've enjoyed it every time and will probably buy it when we get home. It is kind of a companion piece to "17 Miracles." I didn't take any pictures of this activity, so you'll just have to use your imaginations!

When it was over, we drove the two girls home - it takes about 35 minutes each way. They live in Bundoran and the wind was beginning to pick up that night.

And then on Wednesday, overnight, it snowed! What a surprise! Snow in Ireland, while not unheard of, is unusual. And I understand that there are four more fronts that expected to come through Sligo between now and Christmas. That's a whole lot of weather. In fact, we read in the Irish Independent today that a woman very near Mullingar was killed when a tree fell on her car yesterday! And we were there just the day before! Yikes!

Again - not a very good picture, but it's proof of the snow in Sligo.

So, about the baptism. It seems so strange the way it came up. Elder Walker and I have been pretty involved with the first three elders here in the teaching they were doing, but these last two elders are more independent, so we know less about how things are going. We have, in fact, just more or less turned our sights on the branch itself and the members that we already have. And then, out of the blue, we hear that Peadar (pronounced Pather) King has decided, after three years off and on with the missionaries, that he's ready to be baptized. Last night Elder Walker interviewed him for 2-1/2 hours and found him worthy. So Saturday we'll drive out to Glencar Lake, for the second time on our mission, and witness a baptism. We begin the service at the branch first, where we can all sit in relative comfort before going out into the cold. Peader is not concerned about it because he says he learned to swim in a river. We are pleased and excited for him to take this important step. He already recognizes what a difference in can make in his life if he continues to live righteously. And Sunday, before our Christmas service begins, he will be confirmed. It will be, like the caroling, such a highlight for us.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Man, what a weekend!

So sorry to be lax in writing my blog. I think if someone is going to be a blogger, then they darn well ought to be writing, yeah?

I will start with this weekend and then backtrack a bit. Yesterday, we finally had a combined youth activity with the youth of the Mullingar branch. (We started planning this activity in August!) Mullingar is almost two hours east of Sligo and they had six of their 11 youth who attended. We had four of our six. We were actually quite satisfied with those numbers because we feel that this was really a good activity and having many more people might have just gummed up the works. Here is a picture of most of the youth (on either side) and the elders in the middle.

So the activity is probably familiar to anyone who has been a member of the Church for 20 years or so. It's the one where the youth are all brought into a room which has been laid out like an airplane and they are told that they are taking a flight to Paris. We spent many hours preparing for this production, but it was so worth it. The flight gets underway, after everyone - with their individualized passports and boarding passes - have been seated in the plane. Two of the youth played the roles of flight attendants and they passed around the refreshments and then took care of the "rubbish".
About ten minutes into the flight there was an announcement that the captain had reported a problem with the engine and then within seconds we could hear the plane going down (our YM president in the Sligo branch, Sigfred Ducusin, is very techno-savvy, so he was able to create the visual and sound effects for us.
The next thing we knew the plane crashed and then Captain Smith (a.k.a. Elder Walker) came to the front of the room representing the angel who was telling everyone that the plane had crashed and there were no survivors. There was some tittering in the group for a few seconds and then they became very quiet. Elder Walker continued to explain to them that they would now be leaving this place and moving either into Spirit Prison or Paradise (based on whether they received a slip of paper or not). We split the group then and they each went in with one of the missionaries who explained to them about why they were assigned to their initial place of rest and who it was that they would see there. Even though we have all learned these things in church classes over many years, it was enlightening to see it presented this way and I was reminded of things that I had not thought about in a long time. Richard is such a faithful reader of the scriptures, but I continually struggle with it, so I have forgotten things like the fact that it was Christ who first began teaching people in Spirit Prison while he was yet a spirit Himself. I was sitting in the Spirit Prison room and was there when the people from Paradise came to teach them. Then I slipped out of the room so that I could see them come pouring out of Spirit Prison - just like those to are blessed to have their temple work done and who accept that work. There was something especially effective about this for me.
Then began the assignment of people to each of the three kingdoms of Heaven. We all went through them together, beginning with the Telestial, of course, which was lit only by white Christmas lights - imitating stars, and no heat in the room. Elder Benesch taught us about who would be assigned to this sphere, but was good to emphasize that this WAS a degree of glory, even if it was the lowest, and that we could progress in this degree. But, wouldn't it be great if we had something more?

So we moved to the Terrestrial Kingdom, where Elder Celestini (he's Italian, obviously, and his name means celestial - how cool is that?) - anyway, Elder Celestini taught us about the Terrestrial Kingdom.
There is more light in this room because the windows were not fully covered as they had been in the Telestial Room. We learned that the glory here is comparable to the moon - something much more than the stars, but not as much as the sun. Then, of course, we moved to the Celestial Room.
The young man at the pulpit is the 18-year-old president of the Young Men's Quorum in the Mullingar Branch. He gave a very impressive talk about the desirability of the Celestial Kingdom but, again, was considerate of the feelings of those who may have relatives that are never going to be there because they would not even be comfortable there.

When all was said and done, no one was in a hurry to leave. We had all enjoyed the experience and were glad we had participated. I think this is an activity that the youth will long remember, just as others of us, who have done this before, remember it so well.

So today - I'll be brief - was Sunday and the Primary Program. I am the Primary President, so I spoke, along with my one counselor, Chris Grannis. Also, the three children in our Primary each said a small part and sang a song for us. I thought it turned out just fine. And our attendance was up - we had 27 people there today, including an investigator and three visitors. Yay.

I was going to say more, but this has been a pretty long blog, so I'll let you off the hook now. Bye! 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Where have all the Mormons gone?

It's Sunday evening here, Nov. 17th, 2013. We've had four weeks of really poor attendance at Church and it's hard to know for sure what to blame it on. Basically, as I'm sure I've mentioned, we have two families who are the bulwark of our tiny branch, and when they don't come, we take a really bit hit. One family, the Walshes, consist of mom, dad, three teen sons, and a 21-year-old daughter. The father in this family provides the ride for another, bigger family - the Campbells - who have seven active members, but no driver. The daughter in the Walsh family drives the Walsh family because Mom is blind. So, anyway, the Walshes for one reason or another have been absent for four weeks and will be absent for another two, at least. And no Walshes equals no Campbells which equals poor attendance. The last three weeks we've had 17, 15, and 23. It's just sad. And Satan would love us to be discouraged. For that reason alone, we refuse to be.

Let's see if I can find something happier to talk about. One funny thing that happened is that one night the elders were in the midst of "exchanges" when they found themselves locked out of their flat. We considered the options and they came to the conclusion that there was really no choice but to let them sleep at our apartment. So here are Elder Holum (a zone leader) and Elder Wightman, one of our pair of regular missionaries. They were obviously grateful for the housing! And elders are always a joy to be around, so we didn't mind a bit!
We've had some wonderful activities with the youth and YSA in our branch. One of them was a pumpkin carving party. Pumpkins in Ireland are a bit of a rarity, but we were able to locate some in a store here. We went online and found a few patterns that we thought would be appropriate (the character "Sonic" was a big hit with a 12-year-old named Harry). And then we prepared the pumpkins for carving by cutting the bottoms off and then cleaning them out. The youth thought we were pretty clever to think of cutting the bottoms off, rather than the tops, once they understood how much easier it is to light them that way. Here are some pictures from the activity:
(Notice the pumpkin on the far right - Laura, the girl on the left above, carved different faces on each side, so the other side of her pumpkin is reflected in the window. We thought it was a great effect and wished that we had thought to do them all that way!)
Great smile - lousy picture. Oh, well.
Jumping right from Halloween to Christmas ... this is a decoration that was demonstrated for us at a Relief Society Conference which was held in the Finglas Stake Center in Dublin. (Finglas rhymes with ring-glass.) For me it was one of the best days here. I was absolutely surrounded by Relief Society sisters. I think there were something like 90 of them there, and I really think I may have written about this before. But it's worth a second mention anyway because it meant that much to me.
This is obviously a picture of a rainbow. We were looking out our front window to the northwest as this beauty formed. I actually took six pictures of it, but this was the last and best. We've seen at least four rainbows here, the last one was a double and we could see the whole arch - really amazing.

Okay, one quick last thing: we had a mug-painting activity with the youth last Tuesday and, again, it was great fun. There are five or six youth who come each time and I didn't get any close-ups of the finished products, but here we are hard at work:
Until next time, I remain tired but humble Sister Walker

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

You say "potayto" and I say "potahto"

Greetings from Europe! You might say we're "learning Irish" here. There are many words used in Ireland that are extant in America or certainly less common. Here are some of my favorites:

Aunties: pronounced of course as ahn-tees. There are, simply, one's aunts. I'm am especially fond of this one because it helps me understand why my great aunts were called by us "The Anties". It was a carryover from the homeland of Ireland!

"Dear", meaning expensive. I had a 13-year-old girl ask me yesterday if our Nikon camera was dear! I loved it! I asked her (just to make sure), if she meant "expensive" and she said, "yes." I told her that the word dear in Utah is hardly ever used, but that I thought it was great.

"Toilet" - now this is calling a spade a spade. Here in Ireland one never asks to use the "restroom" - we ask to use the toilet! You don't find a lot of toilets here, anyway, but when you do, it's called simply that. It's kind of amusing to be personally to see all the signs on buildings around town that say "To let", because I always think they're just missing the "i" rather than indicating that a place is available to rent.

Biscuits are cookies and sweets are candy. A carriageway is a freeway, more or less. A car park is a parking lot, not a place for your cars to play.

Cabbage and bacon replaces the Americanized corned beef and cabbage, which replaced the original cabbage and bacon (a most delicious meal).

Garda are police. Bin bags are trash bags - but I think I told you that one before. A mantleplace is what we call a mantle.

They burn coal in their fireplaces. No special words there - just an interesting face.

8:30 is half 8:00. Karate is "Krattee". (We know this because of Evan, our recent convert.)

They can't pronounced "th" at the beginning of a word, so thirty is turdy, and 33 is turdy-tree. (Euw.) Seriously.

There are many more examples that I just can't bring up at present, but I'll write again and let you know what we've learned. In the meantime, if you're lucky, there are pictures of our youth activity last night with five young people, and a rainbow below, taken from our apartment window just this morning. Ah, it's grand to be here!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Is it Halloween yet?

Ah, what to say. So much has happened since I last wrote. We've had several meetings and conferences in Mullingar and Dublin. Last Saturday I (Sister Walker) got to go to a fabulous Dublin Stake Relief Society Conference in which we learned to dance and to sing (a very beautiful medley) and to properly "pipe" cakes (we would call it frosting). Then we had some wonderful talks by the female auxiliary heads and a slide show presented by the Stake President. After that we joined together again in the cultural hall for pizza and cake. I'm going to weigh a ton when I get home!

It's so frustrating when I do this blog, because there are pictures that I want to insert, but the jpeg link above will not bring them up half the time. I'm afraid this blog may be all words. Sorry about that!

General Conference was wonderful here, as it was everywhere else. We only saw one broadcast as a branch and that was the one on Sunday morning, which we saw at 5 p.m. on the wall of our chapel. There were only a handful of people there because most people were either not watching it or were watching it on a computer at home. I especially appreciated Elder Holland's talk and President Uchdorf's talk on "doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith".

Here is a random shot of Glencar Lake which I just got to come up. This lake is where baptisms happen, WHEN baptisms happen. We've only had one since we arrived.

One of the things we've been doing here is placing Books of Mormon in local libraries. I may have talked about this before. Anyway, we were on our way to place one in Boyle when we passed by this amazing old, old, old church in Gurreen (pronounced "green") and what was unique about this place is that the floor inside the building had totally worn away, as had the roof. We're used to seeing buildings with no roofs, but this particular church had a small forest growing INSIDE it and the tops of the trees replaced the roof that used to be there.  I'm going to try again to put a picture in here.

No good. Aaarrgghh!!

We've settled into a bit of routine here in that we do some of the same things each week: On Monday evenings, we attend Family Home Evening with the Youth Single Adults of the ward. This is always held at the Walshes' home because their children make up the bulk of the YSA. On Tuesday evenings, we attend activities with the youth of the branch. Tomorrow night we're doing something very special: we're going to go see the helicopter which has very recently been purchased for the purpose of rescuing people from the ocean. If we're lucky, they'll take us up in it. Yikes! I never thought I'd want to do this until now, but now I'm thinking "hey, why not?"

Also on Tuesdays - in the morning - we drive two hours to Mullingar for the weekly district meeting. It's a seven hour trip altogether, but always fun.

Fridays are given over to YSA activities. This Friday we will be learning how to cook. It's about time I did that! What's different about cooking here is that everything is measured on scales, rather than in cups. Also, there are some very different foods. But we haven't run into anything too horrifying yet. If we get to Scotland I suppose we'll be faced with a haggis at some point, but the Shepherd's Pie that they make here in Ireland is delicious!

We've been trying to find an reactivate less-actives here, but it finally dawned on us why we're having no success: it's because the people we're going to see don't know us from Adam! What we need to do it take members of the branch with us who actually KNOW these people. So we've got a Reach Out night scheduled for a week from Wednesday.

Another very cool thing that we've scheduled (with, of course, approval from our mission president) is a Senior Couples Conference in Dublin on Nov. 4. We are all hoping to share ideas to help each other become more effective in our roles as either MLS (like us, Member and Leader Support) or YSA missionaries. We're also hoping to do some cross-training so we can expand the number of things we can do to help our respective branches.

Well, I think that's it for this time. Please write to us if you can. We always respond!

Love, Elder and Sister Walker
Sligo Branch

Saturday, October 5, 2013

A small miracle?

Thursday we found ourselves at the branch building, preparing to participate in the first Institute class of the year. There were supposed to be five youth there for the lesson, but one of them - Evan - couldn't make it because he had a terrible migraine headache. So we decided to use our time, instead, on beginning to tidy up our storage/library room. In the process of doing said tidying we found something a little unusual for an Irish branch - it was a Lithuanian copy of the Book of Mormon. Well, this is interesting, we thought, and decided to give it to the elders in case they ran into any Lithuanians in their travels.

Fast forward to Saturday, when we went with the elders to give a blessing to a two year old boy and his mother. The little boy is having problems with his lung development and is undergoing a slow series of shots, given once a month. Just before giving the blessings, the subject of the mother's nationality came up, because she obviously wasn't Irish. "Where are you from?", we asked. "Lithuania," she replied.

Coincidence? I don't think so!

Of course, we went out to the car, got the book, and gave it to her. Unreal!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Things have changed

I haven't made an entry in this blog since September 16, when Elder Walker the Younger left and went to Limerick. His replacement is an Elder Wightman from Rexburg, Idaho - second of seven children born within eight years. His mother must be Iron Woman. He's a wonderful, enthusiastic young man who, until this time, had never worked with senior couples. I think we make him nervous or he just doesn't quite know what to do with us. When we saw him last night with Elder Barney we found out he had been very sick for two days. If we had known, we could maybe have helped, but we don't want to be intrusive by calling them frequently so ... well, we just didn't know. But last night, at our September Birthdays Party he was there and beginning to feel better. He's a very reserved young man, so now we have two reserved missionaries. But they get along great and are making headway with their work. They were unhappy that they had had five cancellations of appointments during the week and then Elder Wightman's illness didn't help anything. He says he rarely gets sick - maybe once a year - and this is the first time he's been sick on his mission (he's been out since January).

Here are some pictures from our September birthday party. It was a lot of "craic" (Gaelic for "fun").

Steve and Stephanie Walsh, Lewis Walsh, Stephanie Campbell; the Walshes and Campbells make up the bulk of the branch.

Lenny Campbell is the boy in the middle. He's been in foster care most of his life, but now has been restored to his family and hopefully will be baptized soon.

Two lovely ladies who are sisters to one another and who attended our part with their brother. All three of these people have vacation homes in Sligo and live in the U.S.

My companion and I came up with a good use of time on Friday: we drove around to Sligo, Manorhamilton, and Bundoran to place Books of Mormon in each of their public libraries. We were pleasantly surprised at how willing they all were to accept them and assured us that they would be placed on the shelves. We plan to do more of this this coming week. It's kind of a slick way to get in some sight-seeing while actually doing missionary work. ;)

I keep forgetting to share what I'm learning about Irish culture and language. Let's see if I can remember a few of the new words we have learned while here: a grocery cart is a trolley; a trash can liner is a bin bag (I may have told you that one before); when asked to bring food to a pot luck dinner, it is called bringing "savory and sweet" - meaning a main course and a dessert; they say "yeah, yeah, yeah" a lot; lovely and brilliant are commonly used adjectives; at retail stores cashiers say "now" at the beginning of the transaction and then they say "now" + the amount due at the end.

When we came on our mission we were told we would be "MLS" missionaries, which means Member and Leader Support. It's a wonderful concept, but doesn't provide enough to fill up the time, so Elder Walker and I have been trying to find additional things to do. We are currently, under the auspices of the mission president, trying to pull together a country-wide conference (which sounds huge, but it's only seven couples) to discuss different things that people are doing on their missions to provide the MLS we've been asked to give. Richard is terrific at coming up with ideas, and I have suggested a few myself. But, as I said, it's just not enough. We're hoping that we can make the conference happen - either in Dublin or Belfast - and when we return from our mission we plan to approach the Powers That Be in the Provo Mission Home to suggest that they give MLS missionaries some additional training in what they will be doing in the mission field. The training that we received in the MTC was basically just role playing, which really is not applicable to us except when we are called upon to joint teach with the junior missionaries.

Well, I think I've rattled on long enough for now. I hope all is well with all of you. We miss you very much and, it's true, we're out of our comfort zone - even though Ireland is mighty beautiful when it's not covered with clouds and fog. We've been told that in the winter there are only six hours of daylight. Wow, I'm really looking forward to that! Not!

Monday, September 16, 2013

"Moves" Day

We got the news last night that our funny and intelligent Elder Walker (Junior, as we call him) is being transferred to Limerick, Ireland on Wednesday. We have become so attached to this young man that it feels very much like it did when we sent each of our three sons off on their missions. He is the young man on the right. Last transfers he was made a District Leader and this time around he's been bumped up to Zone Leader. This tells you something about his work ethic. We are going to miss him greatly. Limerick is where some of my ancestors came from so we told him we'd be coming to visit one day and will also be visiting Catholic parishes in that city at the same time.

Tonight we will be attending the usual Monday night YSA Family Home Evening. Because we are member-support missionaries, we have the pleasure of attending every branch function that's held. It's nice to know that we can be serving just by participating, and I really believe we are serving that way because the branch numbers here need so much beefing up. Yesterday at church there were only 21 in attendance and that included a (biological) brother and sister from Tubbercurry in County Sligo. They each own a home there and live elsewhere (she lives in North Carolina and he lives somewhere else in the States), so their Irish homes are just for vacations. (How cool would THAT be?)

We had a dreadful experience with a woman here a few days ago and I haven't yet been able to shake off the way she made me feel. She's my age and was an active member of the Catholic Church until she was 19 at which time she left it and began her life search for "the truth", but I don't think she's going to succeed until she stops talking and starts listening. We came to her house with the best message that one person could have for another, but she had her own agenda and refused to listen. Finally, after two hours I had had enough, stood up and said I had to be leaving, which I did. Richard and the junior elders followed about 10 minutes later. More than anything I feel pity for her and nobody wants pity. I'm constantly amazed at how much abuse the proselyting elders have dropped upon them and how they take it. They really make me proud.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Lag time

I'm sick. Not death bed sick, just bronchitis, hot lungs, sore throat sick. I came down with this yesterday. BUT, the good news is that I had bronchitis last year and was prescribed an inhalant called QVar AND I brought it with me to Ireland. Yay! After all the bouts of bronchitis I've had in my life, I've never been prescribed an inhalant until last year. It worked beeeautifully the first time and seems to be doing much good again this time. So, soon (hopefully tomorrow) I'll be back on my feet and running (oh, sure) again. Thank you for all the prayers that are said for the missionaries. We feel it, believe me, and we appreciate it. One of the "junior" missionaries was commenting Tuesday on our way home from Dublin about how good it feels to be set apart to do this work and how it elevates us to a higher place than we've ever experienced. I feel grateful that I am one of the senior missionaries, who has experienced life both ways: (1) where I receive the "average" dose of God's blessings, and (2) where I receive blessings set aside for missionaries.

It's been amazing to me how often I am called upon to say prayers and how those prayers are not being said anymore from any kind of "agenda" that I have in mind, but really are being guided by Heavenly Father. I can't help but think about our dear friend, Bonnie Landvatter, and the prayers she offered which were always  given with a catch in her throat because she was so sincere.

Yesterday, the elders took a train ride to Carrick-on-Shannon to meet up with a 37-year-old GOLDEN investigator. He, on his own, has been studying the literature of the Church for the past YEAR and is now ready to be baptized. Elder Walker (Jr.) has been on his mission for almost a year now and has never met anyone as prepared as this man is. This is really an especially timely blessing because the work here has been discouraging, with really only two women who are moving towards joining the Church. The elders do a phenomenal job of finding investigators, but these people are so are to convert. The Catholic Church here is like Big Brother and the generations of people who have been members of it become more and more set in their ways. Even when they join the LDS Church, within six months they've generally stopped coming. I have become more and more appreciative of the strength of my home ward the longer we are here.

Below are a few pictures from Catholic cemeteries and also a bunch of swans near the Glass House Hotel in Sligo. I have forgotten the name of the river that they're swimming in.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

We're still here!

I didn't realize so much time had passed since I last wrote. I would need to look at my planner to remember all that has happened. We have made a goal to visit as many branch members as we possibly can. Some are impossible to visit because no one knows where they've gone. Others are problematic because of hostile feelings that they have developed against the Church. The feelings of those particular people are hard for us to resolve - for ourselves or for them. Loving the Savior and his Church comes so easily to us that we can't really understand their hostility. Also, it's hard for me personally to know how much the Irish have gone through - during "The Troubles" of the 1920s and all the damage that the Catholic Church has caused here - it's just hard for me to see their hardened hearts when we have such a beautiful message to share with them.

We continue to spend time every week with the youth and that is a joy. Last night I taught them how to index and some of them were really getting into it. We also had three adults attend the meeting because they wanted to learn, as well. (For those of you who don't know what indexing is, I'm going to make you go to and find out for yourselves! :) We have a barbeque at the beach planned for this coming Saturday. It's a coordinated effort with another branch that lives two hours southeast of here. We're planning to meet in the middle at a place called Carrick-on-Shannon, which is a very popular tourist spot. I may have mentioned it before. Anyway, it's really beautiful and I hope we can pull the barbeque off!

We did a little sightseeing just a few blocks from our flat. We went first to the Church of Ireland and then right next door was St. Anne's Catholic Church. I wanted to include some pictures of each, but the blogger program is fighting me. Hopefully, I'll figure it out soon. Basically, our sympathies lie more with the Church of Ireland because we think it's less messed up than the Catholic Church, but I hate the way the Church of Ireland came into existence - on the coat tails of the Church of England, which was begun when King Henry VIII had his wife killed and proclaimed himself both the King of England and the head of the new church. But, hey, that's old news, right? :/ And it's sad to see no one using the Church of Ireland while the Catholic Church is open and running 24/7. Seriously. Catholic Churches are always so dark inside except for the stained glass windows. One can hardly avoid contrasting them with temples which are so full of light. In fact, in the temple, while going through an endowment session, I'm always having to adjust to the light as it brightens. But I love that.

I can't finish this edition without mentioning the great loss that our ward has suffered with the death of Vedana Jensen. She was the quintessential genealogist and will be seriously missed. She did some absolutely amazing work for our ward in Sandy and for at least one other ward before that. When I grow up, I want to be just like her. We love you, Sam.

Friday, August 16, 2013

A Great Day

What a great day we had yesterday. We did a whole hunk of visiting - not in quantity, but in quality.

Our first visit was with a "less-active" woman named Liga Smolaka. We found her a few weeks ago and she was gracious enough to invite us in. (Most "former" Mormons are not happy to be found, unfortunately, so one always approaches the door with one's heart in one's throat.) Anyway, this time when we came, her little seven-year-old daughter was home (beautiful little girl) and we were able to bring the elders to meet them. Viktorija, the little girl, mostly just played in her room with a friend, but we did catch a glimpse of her a few times. Liga expressed a concern the last time we were there that Viktorija's school was preparing her for communion. (It is a Catholic school, as are a majority of schools here.) We have since learned that parents can list their children as members of other faiths or just NOT members of the Catholic faith, and then the school will find other things for the children to do while their classmates are being taught by the priests. So we told Liga this and I think she was relieved to know it. We also offered to go over to the school during that hour of the week and teach Viktorija about the LDS Church instead, looking towards the day when she can be baptized into the LDS Church, as her mother was. Viktorija will turn eight in January. The elders also offered to help teach Viktorija. We are expecting both of them to come to church Sunday, so we're looking forward to that. Liga says she has another friend with two young children who might be able to come with her.

After this, we went over to visit with Ed McPhillips. Ed is a character. He was born in the Bronx, but now lives in Sligo with his mother. He has never married. He was baptized into the church several years ago and has been having the missionaries over for Saturday lunches for many of those years. He absolutely knows the Church is true, but still slips back and forth between a strong testimony and major Word of Wisdom problems that pull him way down. He's been coming to church for about a month now, always early, but he has to have a cigarette out by the front door before he comes in. In this particular visit we met Ed's mother for the first time. (She was recovering from surgery every other time we had been there.) Now this lady has the Gift of the Blarney. She just went on and on and on. We kept waiting for her to draw breath so that we could get a word in edgewise, but it was over an hour before we could do so. She is a faithful Catholic and just a charmer of a person. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit with her and left Ed a five-generation pedigree chart to fill out with her help so that I can try to trace her genealogy.

Our next stop was an hour north in a beautiful Irish town called Ballyshannon. We met with Christine Grannis, my new First Counselor in the Primary Presidency. (Did I tell you I'm the Primary President for now?) We also met her handsome son, Thomas, who is, I believe, 22 years old. He was very personable and just a pleasure to be around. They live at "Lake Cottage" and if you google it, you might just find it. Here is the whole address: Lake Cottage, The Mullins, Knader Road, Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal, Ireland. They rent it for 325 euroes (about $450) a month and it's small, but absolutely wonderful and old. And right outside the front door is one of the most beautiful lakes I've ever seen! It just about took our breath away when we went to leave. They showed us a picture of a pike that Chris's husband had caught out of the lake and it was enormous! And, yes, I regret not taking a picture of the cottage and the lake when we arrived and it was light enough to get a good shot. Another interesting fact: they have a 10 month old "cat", who appears for all the world to be calico, but this cat in the mother of three kittens - two of which are also calico. For those of you who don't know, calico cats are almost always female and sterile, and those that are males are always sterile. So I don't know how this happened. Anyway, I got to play with the kittens and cat all evening which (if you know me you will understand) gave me great pleasure.

THEN, as if that were not good enough, we had a phone call from the elders on the way home and learned that an investigator of theirs who had bailed on them was back on board and ready for another visit. We are scheduled to see her tonight with them. God does answer prayers.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Famine cemetery service project

This very unattractive photograph is a picture of a celtic cross made as a memorial to a large number of children who died during The Great Famine of 1845-48 here in Ireland, and Sligo in particular. We first saw this graveyard when we were in Ireland in 2006 and were moved to tears by it. The main part of the graveyard is well maintained and very peaceful. But the children's area has become greatly overgrown and in need of attention.

With that in mind, we organized a clean-up of this cross. It involved phoning or visiting four different agencies to find the one who was responsible for the care taking of the graveyard. But we succeeded and then got together a group of 11 youth and adults and scheduled the time last evening to undertake this service project. Fortunately, some of the men of the branch had the good sense to bring scrub brushes and gloves, without which we could not have done the job properly. A man named Larry Mullen offered to open the gates for us on the upper side of the graveyard and he stayed with us while we worked. He was so impressed that someone wanted to do this that he invited a photographer from one of the local papers, the Sligo Champion, to come and take pictures. When we get the paper next week, I'll include a picture from it.

Anyway, probably the best part of the experience for me personally was a point during the process when I was just busily wiping away the moss, thinking about nothing else, and suddenly the thought ran through my head "the angels are keeping record of what you are doing here."  It made me feel so wonderful. And I was so proud of all those young people in our branch who really put their hearts into the work. Now that you've heard the story, I'll show you a picture of the outcome.

Quite a different, huh? All around the cross are shells that have been put it, in part because the Gaelic for Sligo means shells. What a great experience!

Friday, July 26, 2013

All-Ireland Conference and flat checks

On Wednesday of this week we had a marathon. We arose at 5:30 a.m. to be at the elders' flat by 7:00 a.m. Our objective: to reach Dublin by about 9:30 a.m. for what is called The All-Ireland Conference. This is a grouping of all the missionaries and as many of the support people as possible to come together and be instructed by our president and his wife, along with a General Authority and his wife. I have no idea how to spell the GA's surname, but it sounded like Tasheera. We also struggled to know his nationality, although it was generally noised about that he was German. I thought his wife looked and sounded much more Latin than that. At some point we'll find out.

Our Sligo elders did us proud in performing a piano/trumpet/vocal rendition of "God Speed the Right" and I'm still working to get the tune out of my head. Not that it's an unpleasant tune; it's just that I've heard it in my head about 200 times now. I think I'm going to have to forcibly send it away by replacing it.

Elder Tasheera was an exceedingly jovial and positive man and his enthusiasm did much to encourage all of us as missionaries. We, the seniors, did wish for some words of encouragement directed particularly at us, but recognized that the juniors' work is the more significant. Also, because the seniors serve as either CES, YSA, or MLS missionaries, it would have been hard to address all three. We are MLS missionaries, serving in Member and Leader Support.

We finally left Dublin at 3:30, arriving home at about 6:45 and then hustling to an appointment at 7:00 p.m. The man who was being taught is named Eric Ford and he is a hoot. He's just as Irish as they come - short, a little stout, bald on top, and a gift of the blarney like no other. And he laughs so easily. He's just a joy to be around. He is a man who is definitely looking for the truth, as he has been since he was 18 and left the Catholic Church and later the Baptist Church. He can see the hypocrisy in other churches and is, I think, a prime candidate for baptism. We have high hopes for him.

Friday, July 19, 2013


This is a view from our flat. How Irish can you get?? This is right out the front window on the second floor of our two floor apartment, so we get to see this every day. The clouds behind have gone away now and it's been very warm for the last two weeks or so.

These are pictures of the first baptism we participated in. It happened about a week after we arrived, if memory serves (and it hardly ever does). The young man on the right is Evan Cawley. He's 17 years old and has just been an amazing new member of the Church. We always have lengthy discussions with him because he wants to know everything about the gospel. What a joy!

These are some of the pictures we took of our hike up Belbulben. It's a famous mountain hereabouts and was a great stretch of the legs, from which I recovered four days later. The last picture is a view from the top which Elder Walker the Older took. (Sister Walker the Older couldn't climb that high!) The lake below is where we had the baptism. It's called Glencar Lake.

Elder Barney and Elder Walker the Younger at Bundoran, right by the ocean. It's an incredibly beautiful place that the locals call Fundoran because it's very touristy.

Us at Bundoran. The waves were spectacular.

Parke Castle on "P" Day. They're doing a very nice job of restoring this castle and have used a very similar rock, but in a lighter color, to replace the parts that are missing.
Elder Walker studying the Parkes Castle brochure. Reading, always reading! :)

The right place at the right time

We were having a quiet day today - actually a little too quiet, so we decided to go out and try to find at least one of the people on a list that the elders gave us of people who had begun investigating the Church and then decided not to press on.

We collected the elders at the branch building, which in itself was serendipitous because we didn't know they were going to be there. We had gone over to make a few last minute preparations for a Family History Open House we're putting on tomorrow. Anyway, there they were, so we invited them to go with us, which they were happy to do because they had nothing on their schedule either.

We went to an area of the city called Cartron Estates. From the sound of it, you'd expect large houses on vast tracts of land, but sometimes developers get a little grand in their thinking. Anyway, it was a pleasant neighborhood and it took a bit of time to find the exact address we were looking for. When we got there, we found the gentleman we were after and he explained that he didn't really want to look any further into joining the Church. BUT right next door, we bumped - almost literally - into another man. I had just stepped out of the car because it was so hot and here was this gentleman winding up his hose. I commented to him about how warm it was and he joked that no, it was cold! The next thing I knew the elders were back beside the car and Elder Walker the Younger was standing beside me. I turned around to face the car and indicated to him that he should speak to the man. Little did I know that, at the exact same time, Elder Walker the Older was on the other side of the car telling Elder Barney to talk to the man. The next thing I knew we were having this amazing discussion with this fellow, who was a Catholic, and HE brought up the subject of Melchizedek and what a great priest he was. I was floored. I thought, how many people outside the LDS Church know much about Melchizedek? So we shared with him the fact that all three of the elders had the priesthood of Melchizedek, that it had been bestowed on them based on their worthiness. Anyway, we probably talked to this man for at least a half hour and towards the end he was saying "I don't think it's an accident that you stopped here." He told us that he had been taking care of his sick parents for years and that he had lost one in 2011 and the other in 2012 and that he had been praying recently to know what was to be next in his life. And then here come the missionaries!

Elders Barney and Walker the Younger gave him a Book of Mormon and a few other pamphlets and asked if they could come back in a few weeks and talk to him and he was just more than happy to have them do that. It was awesome!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Hiking mountains and tracting streets

I've got 20 minutes until we leave to do a street tracting activity. We're going to set up a white board in front of the Tourist Centre and hand out Books of Mormon, pamphlets, pass-along cards, whatever people want. It seems to be the height of tourist season here, so we thought the timing was good. Also, we've been enjoying warm, dry weather for about a week and hope that it will hold out during the three hours we're standing outside.

A few days ago we had the most fabulous activity with the branch. We hike a famous mountain here called Benbulben (see Google images). It was a real workout (especially for me), but it was so worth it. However, I confess that here it is three days later and my calves are still incredibly stiff. Oh, well.

We've been helping the junior missionaries to teach several people, tour of whom are from Africa. Two are from Zimbabwe, one from Nigeria and one from Togo. Togo may not be a part of Africa, actually. It's wonderful to hear the questions they ask and also to hear them pray. Their prayers are right from the heart, even though many have been raised Catholic and really only have the memorized prayers to fall back on.

Well, I'd better get going. Hopefully soon you'll all be able to find this blog and I can get back to just concentrating on writing and stop worrying about your access.

Our love to all. Elder and Sister Walker

Monday, July 8, 2013

What day is it?

I'm losing track of time. Days just blend together and each one feels like it's three days long. I never thought I'd have a period of time when the gospel was virtually all I was about. We don't watch television. We don't play the radio. We read a lot. I spend some time every day on a temple apron I'm making. We shop for groceries a few times a week and do a load of wash also about twice a week. And then there is the time on the road when we're going to and from the church and mostly to and from appointments with the elders and hunts for lost sheep. It's restorative work. That is to say that we not only do the restoration, but we ourselves are restored. And yet it's so different from anything I've ever known.

One thing I've noticed is that when you're wearing a missionary name badge, people tend to give you a lot of space on the sidewalks. (I hope that made you laugh, because that's what I meant it to do.)

We met a woman today who told us she knew "all about" the Mormon Church (that's what most people say) and that she'd also studied the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Catholic Church, but that in the end she had decided to become what she called a "straight Christian". I have no idea what that means. She was working with a group in the Methodist Church, but said that she didn't belong to the Methodist Church - she was just helping them out. She's from Wisconsin and apparently just goes around the world doing her "straight Christian" work. It was actually a bizarre exchange we had with her and we came away from it just feeling sorry for her.

I've got a link to add to this blog and I hope you can pull it up. Here's the background: Elder Walker the Younger (a.k.a. Elder Shaun Walker) goes to local newspapers and offers them interviews. He did it twice when he was in Scotland and he's done it twice here in Sligo. This time, we got our picture in the paper, too. So here's the link:

Tell us what you think!

Sister Walker

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Getting our feet underneath us

It's been less than a week since I wrote and yet it seems like so much longer. It's fun to be so busy.

Two day ago we were in Mullingar - a city two hours southeast of us - at a district meeting. There are eight members of our district - six strapping young men, the Old Geez and me. :) We began the meeting discussing our various successes and failures. Then we had a lesson on how to pray more effectively (pray aloud to stay focused, being sincere, pray about the genuine needs of the people you're praying about, stay on your knees a little longer and listen with your heart). After that four of the junior missionaries (as we're calling them these days) gathered together around another elder on the piano and attempted to harmonize in preparation for an upcoming zone conference. Their first attempts were pretty amusing, but the improvement came and now we have high hopes for them.

On this same day an article came out in one of the local newspapers, The Sligo Champion. One of the elders here, Elder Walker the Younger, has given interviews twice to newspapers, but this time we were included in the mix. If I have figured out how to add a picture, you will see it in this blog. These articles seem to be very helpful as the elders have received three referrals just this week from the Church.

And, wonder of wonders, we met a gentleman on the street who seemed to have literally been put in our path. We were trying to find a former member of the branch and this gentleman was standing about 15 feet away from us. At first we just asked him if he knew the fellow we were looking for, but then afterwards Richard told him who we were and asked if he'd ever heard of the LDS or Mormon Church. He said he had, and then in classic form, Richard asked if he'd like to know more. And he said, "yes." I was floored. This is the first time I've had this kind of experience. While Richard was writing down his name and phone number I went back to the car and got him a Book of Mormon. When we drove away two minutes later, he was already reading it. We were very pleased and are now praying that something wonderful comes of this contact.

Friday, June 28, 2013

June 25, 2013 or 25 June 2013, if you prefer

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

It’s afternoon here in Sligo. We’ve spent the morning going up and down one way streets trying to relocate the photo store where we were having pictures developed of the baptism we attended last Saturday. Elder Donaldson will be leaving tomorrow and since he was the one who baptized Evan Cawley, we wanted him to have the pictures of said baptism. It took us about 45 minutes during which time the Elders were waiting for us to be there to visit with an elder named William who had been inactive for six months, but who was looking to come back into activity. 

When we finally arrived we had a very nice visit with William, who is from Zimbabwe and speaks English beautifully. 

The elders had to hustle off to another appointment (which didn’t actually work out) and afterwards we took them to lunch at the Supermac – which is basically a glorified McDonalds. It was really fun, especially trying to compete with all the youngsters (about 25) who were there on a field trip. We took the elders to see a famine graveyard after lunch. We had been able to find it last night on a tip from the branch president that it was in Ballyvitlan – just across the street and a few blocks away from the Supermac. We’ve identified a good place for the young people of the ward to perform some light service in cleaning the moss off the cross on the ground in the children’s area of the cemetery. (Did that sentence have enough prepositional phrases for you?)

Just a few minutes ago the elders came over with Evan to have Evan take a picture of us for the next article coming out in the “Sligo Champion” newspaper next Tuesday. We’ll have to be sure to watch for it so we can add it to our memorabilia and send a copy to our kids at home. The elders send articles into the local newspapers and they publish information about them which helps put a positive spin on the work we’re trying to do here. Elder Walker will be here with us for the next six weeks, so hopefully he will continue to send in the articles and spreading the good word about us as a church. The article about Elders Walker and Donaldson that showed up in another newspaper this past Tuesday carried the headline: “Professional Musician and Eye Doctor give up jobs to “sell” Mormon religion.” (Elder Walker plays the trumpet and Elder Donaldson is hoping to go into medicine when he gets off his mission.) Actually, the article was really very flattering, but that headline missed by a mile!

Sorry I haven't included any pictures yet. I've taken several, but haven't figured out yet how to post them. I'll keep working on it!

June 23, 2013 - End of Week One

I'm actually posting this page on June 28, but while we were trying to get our Internet to work, I wrote the following page:
Sunday, June 23, 2013

It’s been a week of busy-ness and this is the first chance I’ve had to sit and write a bit about it.
We hit the ground running on our mission … to a baptism of fire, as we were involved in a zone meeting one hour after landing at Dublin Airport. But before that baptism of fire, we first had to meet a very unfriendly lady at the airport entry. She took a look at our passports and (United Kingdom) visas and asked what we were doing in Ireland. We told her we were here to serve a one year mission for our church. “What! You can’t do that!”, she said. “You have a UK visa which is no good here. Didn’t they tell you that?”
“Actually, we questioned it, but they assured us that the UK visa was the one we needed. Is there a visa for Ireland?”
“Oh, no. There’s no visa needed for Ireland (but we for sure can’t use our UK visas!!). How much are they paying you to serve this mission?”
“Nothing,” we replied. “We’re paying our own way.”
“Well, how long did it take to you save up for this?”
“Oh, several years.”
Where are you going to live?”
“We’re being sent to Sligo.” (She got a big kick out of this.)
“It’s just your luck they’d send you someplace like Sligo! Well, it just won’t do. You can’t just come in here and say you’re going to live in Ireland for a year and serve a mission. Doesn’t your church know this?”
“I’ll tell you what I’ll do” (we could tell she was softening a wee bit),” I’ll let you stay for three months” (and she so noted it in our passports). And thus we entered our field of service.
Following the dramatic entrance to the country, we went to the zone meeting and bore our testimonies, then moved on to an incredibly okay luncheon, followed by receiving keys to our not-quite-new Opel Mariva or something like that. We hopped in with the two missionaries who had taken the train from Sligo to meet us (Elder Walker  -  yes, you read that right – and Elder Donaldson.) (We have since seen Elder Walker’s pedigree and do not think we’re related.)
When we got to Sligo, they showed us around our new “flat” (which is very nice, but has a few problems – one being that we can’t connect to the Internet!). It’s very clean and seems to be quite new. We love kneeling on the hard tiles each morning and night (not!). Then we took the elders home and came back to our flat. Fortunately, we didn’t collapse right away, so that has helped with the jet lag.
So that was Tuesday.
Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday all rather blur together. During these days we have set up housekeeping, been to several stores around the city, taken a trip to another town – Mullingar – by ourselves, with our not-so-trusty GPS at hand telling us to turn left and right here and there when it was never appropriate. (Sigh.) We did finally get to Mullingar after two and a half hours, rather than the proscribed two hours. We met again Elders Oman and Barney (whom we had first met in the zone meeting) there in Mullingar and did a flat check – which is a matter of seeing how tidy they keep things and had nothing to do with looking at tires …if you follow where I have drifted. J
We’ve gone on visit with the elders here in Sligo and have met a Nigerian man who lives with a woman and has been investigating the church for quite a while. He was very interesting and obviously had studied religion a great deal. At one point I made the observation to him the perhaps it was time to do less reading and researching and actually get on his knees to ask Heavenly Father if the Book of Mormon was true and if, as he had been taught, Joseph Smith was a prophet. He seemed agreeable to the idea, but at the same time I sense that he’s holding back. In truth I think Jamie, his girlfriend, was actually taking in more than Francis was, even though Francis was doing a great deal of talking. I look forward to meeting with them again and seeing if Francis and James actually have followed through on asking for an answer to their prayer.
Another interesting man we met is named Ed. Ed is probably 50-something because his mother, whom he is caring for is 85. Ed has many problems and sometimes tries to treat them with alcohol. When we met with him he was just coming off a one-week binge and willingly admitted it. I think he knows it’s not the answer, but he gets frustrating with his pain and so gives into the drink. Ed is a regular Saturday visit for the elders and he always provides them with something to eat. I find that very touching and, as with Francis and Jamie, look forward to meeting Ed again.
Well, it’s getting late and we’ve have another visit lined up in the morning, so I’m going to end here. I know that Elder Walker (Senior) and I are in the right place doing the right thing and it’s a great source of joy to both of us.
Take care! Sister Walker