Wednesday, January 29, 2014

1 29 2014 We found Kathleen O'Rourke's ancestral home, Ballymitty in Co. Wexford!

So yesterday we went on a scouting expedition to further get the lay of the land. This time we adventured toward Enniscorthy by way of New Ross. New Ross is the town where JFK commissioned that a famine ship replica be built and used to give people a feeling for the hardship of the famine emigrants in sailing to America, Australia, and other points. On our trip to Ireland in 2006, we toured the ship - I believe it's called the Brophy, or something like that. This time we only drove past it. It felt strange because we were so focused in 2006 on everything ancient that we weren't even aware of all the newness around us. This time it was obvious and distracting. But that ship is still beautiful and perhaps one day we'll take a pair of missionaries with us to see it again.

Anyway, when we got to Enniscorthy, we attempted to see three branch members, none of whom was at home. But our time was not wasted because a few good things happened after that. One was that we were able to place a Book of Mormon in the Wexford County Library.

For the next part, I need to explain something. Our GPS is programmed so that we have the option of driving to our various destinations either using "faster time" or a "shorter distance". Since we didn't like the way the "faster time" seemed to be working, we switched to "shorter distance". Now, because of this switch, we found ourselves bouncing around on all kinds of side roads. It is my habit, while we're riding (and if I'm not knitting), to read the road signs, and that's just what I was doing when I read the following sign:

I just about jumped out of my seat! This first sign was followed quickly thereafter with this sign:

Many of you wouldn't recognize the significance of this, but I did IMMEDIATELY!! Friends of Kathleen O'Rourke, in the Hillcrest 5th Ward in Sandy, would know that Ballymitty is the ancestral homeland of Kathleen's adoptive family, either the O'Hara's (her adoptive father's name) or her adoptive mother's name, which I can't come up with at the time. Seeing this sign was such a thrill to me because I wasn't looking for it - and I had told Kathleen that we were not likely to see this little town because we thought we'd be serving our whole mission in Sligo - on the other side of Ireland. Anyway, there it was, and we followed the little sign at the top for the one kilometer to find this tiny, tiny town (probably the smallest we've seen). While there we saw the church first (they ALL have churches) and then we came across a lady who was taking her horses in for the night. The little pony at the bottom is her 35-year-old pure shetland. We asked her if she was familiar with any O'Hara's still in Ballymitty, but she said there are none. Oh, well, time marches on.

1 29 2014 Our Waterford chapter begins

We arrived in Waterford yesterday. We are living in what they call a "semi-detached" home. In America, we would call it a duplex. My first impression as we came through the door was - eeuuw, it stinks! So our first order of business this morning was to buy an air freshener. We'll see how it works. The reason for the smell is the age of the home and the carpet on the floor. Getting back to that "semi-detached" thing, someone explained it to us as a home which has one common wall with another home. I immediately tried to picture a home with TWO common walls - say, the side and then the back ... makes for a kind of funny visual methinks.

We have had phone conversations with both the elders and sisters here, but have not met them yet. We spent today getting our bearings, finding a library and a post office, and buying a few necessities at a Lidl store. We also drove down to the quay where we thought the old Waterford Factory was, but we didn't find it. I can't imagine that they have torn in down. That would be almost a sacrilege. The sunset tonight was just breathtaking. The air here is so clear that it makes the clouds somehow prettier and when the sun goes down, it's yellow, not red, like Salt Lake.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Good-bye Sligo, Hello Waterford!

One of the questions we had when we began our 12 month mission was "will we ever be transferred?" We got the answer today, New Years' Eve: yes! We are being transferred on or after January 17th to Waterford, which is located more or less in the southeast corner of Ireland. It is the home of the former Waterford Crystal Factory and Store. I say former because in about 2008, for reasons which you can guess, it was closed down. To me, and I'm sure to a large population of people around the world, this was a great tragedy. I am, however, grateful to say that I was able to purchase some of the last crystal produced by Waterford and I even have some at home which my sister, Susan, brought me, and which she had autographed and dated by the man who made it.

Anyway, I digress. I need to say something about the work we might be doing in Waterford. There was a senior couple who served there recently and they spent a great deal of time and money on visiting less-active members of the church. In fact, they had a regular list whom they visited at the same time every week. Three days of the week they were gone from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. doing these visits. Now it's two months later and we don't know if the couple that's in Waterford now has continued that work or if they are doing other things. At any rate, we will find out soon. It's been our experience in Sligo that focusing on the active members of the branch has been a better use of our time. We really struggled with trying to find and reactivate the less-active, but it was all in vain. That's not to say that at some point these people won't return to the Church. It's just a tad disheartening to see people pull away from the thing which for us is the most important thing.

We had an interesting experience on Dec. 21st. It was a baptism, but the confirmation has not happened yet. Padder (that's not actually the way his name is spelled, but that is what people call him) ... anyway Padder has been investigating the Church for three years now and felt that it was finally the right time for him to go ahead and be baptized. Elder Walker was asked to interview him because he is a set-apart senior missionary and it was either him or the zone leaders and President Brown said that he (Elder Walker) should do it. So for 2-1/2 hours they talked and afterwards Richard felt like Padder was ready and worthy. So we went ahead. Here are a few pictures of the happy day:

Up until we reached the "Waters of Mormon" it had been raining steadily all day. Then we got there, got out of the cars, and the rain stopped. The sun came beaming through the clouds and it turned into a gorgeous day, as I hope you can tell by the last picture. We went to the Walshes' for food afterwards and then home. The next day Padder was supposed to be confirmed, but he didn't show up. At first the elders were able to continue getting in touch with him, but at this point he's just slipped off the face of the planet (I'm writing this on Jan. 6). We knew that he was very concerned because on Christmas he had had a few drinks and I suppose he thought by doing that he had cancelled out the baptism. But he hasn't. And we learned from this experience (well, probably Elder Walker already knew this) that a baptism without a confirmation doesn't have to be repeated for one full year. So he has time to get things "sorted" as they like to say. If I ever doubted that the Irish have a huge problem with alcohol, I surely don't doubt it now. And this business of being baptized and then not confirmed has happened several times before in this branch. It makes me wonder why they don't routinely confirm people on the same day that they're baptized! But that's not my call to make.