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!