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.