Monday, April 28, 2014

This was a very busy and different week for us. I guess we could call it our RV week because that is what took the majority of our time. We made a trip to Steamboat to install a new furnace and another trip to remove a leaking water heater. We will be going back to Steamboat this week to install the water heater. The Elders have had to go stay in Ganado since they have no water at their place. I am glad I am just the 'gopher' on these projects. I haven't the slightest idea of how all the stuff works. Owen knew a lot before we got this assignment, but he has also learned a lot more about RVs with having to do the hands-on repairs.

We took a ride over to Zuni to visit the senior missionaries there. They are going home in two weeks; and Owen wanted to see how they had winterized their 5th wheel trailer, so he would have an idea of what he needed to do for the Elders' RVs.

Another day Owen helped a couple of men get clay so they can make pots. We never realized how big of a process it is to make a pot. When you see one sitting on the store shelf, you don't realize all the time, patience, and effort that is behind it. They had to go over to the mountains by Keams Canyon. They dug the rocks out by using pry bars, hammers, and picks. The rocks were put in five-gallon buckets and carried down the mountain and dumped in the big barrels that were in the back of the truck. After they got the clay rock, one of the men said a prayer to thank Mother Earth for her gift of the clay. Then they all had to eat two pine needles so that now that sacred land is a part of them.

They will soak the rock in water until it dissolves; then it is strained through an old pair of denim pants (that have the legs tied shut). After it is strained, the clay is kneaded to make sure all the water is out of it. They roll some into coils and form a pot. A smooth rock is used to rub all the imperfections out of the pot which also polishes it. A design and paint is added. They make their own paints using burned squash seeds for black and red rock that has been crushed into a fine powder for the red. The pot is then put in a stove, covered with old pottery shards and sheep manure, and fired. After about three hours, the pot is done and removed from the stove. Hopefully, it will not have any cracks or imperfections and is ready to be sold. Some of them will sell for several hundred dollars and others for less. Even at several hundred dollars, they don't get much, if anything, for their time or labor.

When we went out for one of our appointments, his family was in the process of butchering a lamb. So we learned a whole lot about that process, too. Everything is used even the fat, intestines, stomach, and blood. The head is even roasted in a pit. They said that the eyes, tongue, brain, and meat on the head are all very tasty. We think we will just take their word for it! They are a very resourceful people and have learned to not let things go to waste.

Our District had made arrangements with the Curly family in Chinle to take us down in the bottom of Canyon de Chelly National Monument on Saturday. No one is allowed to go in there unless they have a guide or property owner with them. The Curlys own property down in the bottom, so we went to their place. Since this was a rare opportunity, we invited all the couple missionaries to go with. What a special experience. You don't really go down into a canyon. You are driving along and the canyon walls begin to rise around you. The Canyon de Chelly to the south is about 20 miles long with an adjoining Canyon del Muerto to the north of about the same length. There are several sites of dwelling ruins built by ancient Anasazi Indians between A.D. 350 to 1300. We didn't visit any of the ruins today. We drove in and out of the meandering river enjoying the breathtaking beauty of the red, sheer canyon walls and formations and the contrast between them and the green of the cottonwood trees and grass. We hiked up to a ledge on a mountain and saw petroglyphs and a few pictographs drawn by the ancient ones. We all met in the hogan and had Sis. Curly tell us what it was like growing up in the Canyon. She told of how they didn't have any sweets. They would sneak up on a bumblebee, smash it with their hands, and then eat the little bit of honey it contained. They did a lot of farming – raising peach and apple trees, squash, pumpkin, corn, and other crops.

When they would go on hunting trips, they would herd the deer into an entrapment. They didn't have guns or use bow and arrows. They had a bag filled with corn pollen. Someone would leap on the back of a deer, put the bag over its head, and smother it. This was to prevent the deer from dying from a puncture wound which was against their religion. Corn pollen is sacred to the Navajo people.

Today the families only live in the Canyon during the summer months when they are farming. The rest of the time they live in Chinle or surrounding areas.

She said that several scenes from various movies had been shot down in the Canyon. Some of the movie stars that have been to their property are John Wayne, Gregory Peck, Omar Shariff, and Johnny Depp.

We had planned on having a pot luck lunch while we were in the bottom, but it was just too windy, cold, and even started to rain a little. The zone leader called and made arrangements for us to use the church at Many Farms to have lunch. I don't think I was the only one who was glad for the change in plans, because by the time we got out of the Canyon and drove to Many Farms, the rain was really coming down.

As we were driving back to Lupton, it even turned to snow. It had snowed and had strong winds in Lupton while we were gone and the power was out. They said that the power had been out for nearly five hours. We got hit with a blizzard shortly after we got home. At 5:30 in the afternoon, our temperature was only 37 degrees. It has been blowing and cold all day today,too. I guess you could call it typical spring weather.

We continue to be amazed at the ingenuity of the Navajo people and their ability to survive. According to the Navajo beliefs, the coyote is a powerful being who has learned to adapt to human habitation. Like the coyote, the Navajo people have learned to adapt. They are a powerful and spiritual people, who believe in God, and have a strong spiritual tie with Mother Earth.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Better late than never – Happy Easter, everyone!

This week wasn't so full of emotional highs and lows as last week was, but still a good week. Decided we better check on the last two trailers that we haven't visited for awhile. So Tuesday we headed out for Tsaile and Chilchinbeto. Relieved that they had no serious problems to report. However, on Saturday when we were coming home from Farmington, the elders in Steamboat called and said that two of their three CO monitors had gone off. Last week one went off. Good clue that there might be a problem. So we headed that way, pulled the furnace, had it checked in Gallup today, and it definitely had problems, and will need to be replaced. The joys of living in an RV (definitely adds a little stress to Owen's life.)

Our Branch had a pot-luck dinner and Easter egg hunt on Wednesday. One lady had asked if we could give her, and her husband, and grandmother a ride. When I went to pick them up, there were nine people that crawled in the van. There were still several in that area that didn't come with us. We had a lot of people show up – friends and family of the Branch members. Many of the people we had not met before. Now we just need to figure out where they live and go visit with them.

Owen and I hid a whole bunch of plastic eggs, including four golden ones. Whoever found a golden egg, got a stuffed bunny. I think everyone enjoyed the hunt, because we had two men, a teenager, and a two-year-old win the bunnies. During the hunt, Jay would walk around and yell, “I see a golden egg.” All the kids would come running. While they were looking for it, he would move to another area and shout it out again. Finally they realized that he was teasing them. It didn't take them long to fill their baskets and clear all the eggs out of the yard. I think everyone enjoyed themselves and it was a fun evening.

We have completed the lessons for Temple Preparation with three of our sisters. One had her interview with the Stake President and is good to go. So we will be planning a temple trip in the near future. The other two will have their interview with the Branch President this Sunday.

The Headstart teacher had asked us to come in and read an Easter story to the children. So I found a cute little story about a bunny who didn't want to share his Easter eggs. After the story, I asked Owen what he had in his box. He showed them a treat bag. I asked him if he was going to share them with the children. He said, “No. I don't want to.” So then the children and I had to tell him how if he shared, not only would it would make us happy, but it would make him happy, too. I guess some of the children got the message, because later in the day we saw one of the little guys. He came running up to us and said, “You gave me some candy, and I'm sharing.”

We had a Zone Conference in Farmington on Friday, so most of our District decided to stay over and visit some ruin sites nearby. The Conference was good. We enjoy hearing from Pres. and Sister Batt. Pres. Batt told us that faith is a principle of action. You have to take action in order for faith to work. Miracles happen as a result of our faith.

They introduced six new couples and a single sister who are joining our ranks. There are ten couples that will be going home before the next conference. Two of them are from our District. We will be sad to see them leave. When we get together twice a month, it gives us a chance to get to know each other better and to draw closer to each other. But their replacements already have their assignment, so that is good.

One sister said that they were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary in October. She said that their kids are sending them to Hawaii to celebrate their anniversary. Then she added, they don't know it yet; but they are. That got a good laugh from everyone.

True to form – our District sat down in the hotel lobby that evening and played games. I am sure some people wondered what that many missionaries were doing in one spot.

The next day we headed out to Aztec to tour the Aztec Ruins. Amazing! They are over a 1000 years old. The one complex was three stories high and had 400 rooms when the early Pueblos lived there. They believe that they built in the Chaco Canyon area first, then moved to the Aztec area. From there they moved to Mesa Verde. These ruins are not built on a mountain, but out on open ground.

We also went to the Salmon Ruins. They aren't as well preserved as the Aztec ones are, but still very interesting. Good place to go visit if you are ever in the Farmington area.

After Stake Conference on Sunday, Owen had the opportunity to ordain a man to the Melchizedek Priesthood to the office of an Elder. The Branch President already has his eye on him for a Branch Clerk. That will be good for him to get a calling right off the bat.

Things never seem to slow down around here. We just think we might have some free time, and then someone calls or drops by and we are off and running again.

A couple of thoughts in closing: “Going on a mission is better than sitting around and watching your birth certificate expire.” “A missionary is someone who leaves their family for a short time, so others may be with their families for eternity.”

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Did I say that this week might be a busy one? Remind me not to ever say that again, because busy doesn't begin to describe our week. We did find out two things, however. First, life as missionaries can be like a roller coaster; and, second, that we can do hard things – with the Lord's help.

Owen and our friend went to Sawmill on Monday and met Elder Hunt and his f riend. Together they all worked on the RV. They put in a long hard day, but got most of it ready. We made a trip later in the week and got it ready for move-in. We also made a trip to Steamboat to check a CO monitor, but things turned out to be fine. Nobody is taking any chances when it comes to the RVs and the safety of the Elders.

Our special little family that has been coming to Church and FHE had some sadness this week. Cassandra called on Monday night to tell us that her baby's heart beat had stopped. She was 21 weeks along and would be induced in the morning. Of course, we felt terrible. We went to Gallup the next day so Owen could give her a blessing. Later in the day, she called and said that they wanted to bury the baby, and asked if we could come and get it. It needed to be kept in a cool place (the refrigerator) until burial. They don't have any electricity at their place. So we went to Gallup and picked up the little one. The hospital had prepared the baby so that we could easily transport it. At first I was squeamish about having that little package in the fridge. But, then the feeling came over me that I should feel privileged to be in the presence of this special little spirit. He had so recently left Heavenly Father's presence for a brief moment of earth life and then was called home to be with a loving Heavenly Father forever.

Owen built a little wooden box the next morning, and we covered it with fabric. I typed up a program for the family to keep, and Owen helped dig the grave. He officiated at the graveside service with just the immediate family and us there. Then little Hayden was buried in the shade of a big cedar tree, and a huge yucca plant to the side, on the hill behind his parents' home.

If someone had told us before we left home that we would have to do something like this while on our mission, I think I would have said, “There is no way I can do that. Would you please assign me some place else.” But, with the help of the Lord and the love we have for this special family, we were able to do it. We were grateful for the opportunity to serve and help them. Hence, we found out we can do hard things!

We finished the work on the little box about 30 minutes before we had an appointment with our 19-year-old investigator. We finished up the 4th discussion and asked him about getting baptized on May 17th. He accepted, and we were thrilled. As we were leaving his place, I told Owen that I thought our young man was glowing as we talked to him about baptism. He has truly been touched by the Spirit; and, in turn, is having a positive influence on others in his family.

The roller coaster of emotions was working overtime that day. We weren't even disappointed when no one showed up for FHE that night. We were emotionally exhausted, especially Owen.

Two days later we were returning from an appointment and saw a lot of black smoke off in the distance. Owen couldn't go on home and ignore it. Our first thought was that someone's home was on fire. We drove out to the area and found it was a brush fire between Route 66 and I-40. If it jumped the frontage road (66), then homes could be in danger. Owen remembered that he still had the shovels in the back of his truck from digging the graves; so he hopped out and proceeded to fight the fire. Soon two other guys showed up to help. It was 45 minutes before a fire truck finally came. How grateful we were that it wasn't someone's home.

Sunday was Fast and Testimony Meeting. We were thrilled when both of our investigators were there. The 19-year-old also had his cousin with him. His cousin is a member but hasn't been to Church in years. He has been to all of the missionary discussions, though. We can see the seed of faith beginning to grow within him. He even bore his testimony today. Cassandra bore her testimony, also. We are so glad that she had the Gospel, and a special family, to support her during this difficult time.

More good news! A young man (30-ish) whom we have been meeting with almost every week, had his interview today in order to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood. He should be sustained and ordained next Sunday at Stake Conference. Also, one of our sisters we have been teaching Temple Preparation lessons had her interview to attend the temple. I didn't walk home after Church, I floated!

One of our sons said to Owen, “Dad, aren't you the one who said a six-month mission was long enough; and now you are thinking an 18-month mission isn't long enough.”

This mission has stretched us further than we ever thought possible. It never ceases to amaze us the things we are called upon to do; and that we are able to do what needs to be done. We really feel that the Lord is with us, even in the small details of our lives.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The week was full of adventures, challenges, anxiety, and joy. The happiness came when we challenged our investigators to baptism, and they both accepted. We still have more teaching that needs to be done, but they are progressing Now the anxiety begins, and we hope and pray that nothing will get in the way of their final progress towards baptism.

Owen got to go hiking on a mesa with one of the members. They found ruins of a sweat lodge and a pit house from prior inhabitants. They had an enjoyable time, and the weather even cooperated. I decided not to go hiking and went to the Senior Center instead to help them with Easter decorations. There were 25 people there that day and all but two older ladies got involved in making the different projects. It is fun to see how they take a simple pattern and embellish it to make it their own.

Our oldest son had a hernia and gall bladder surgery this week. It was hard to not be home to be with him and his wife during this time. So we had to rely on the prayers of many and have faith that the Lord would take care of him. So far, the reports we get are he is doing fine and on the road to recovery.

We had an awesome Family Home Evening this week. We had six adults and three children come (four of the adults and a child were first-timers). It was great to have new people and to get to know them better. Cassandra's mother came and seemed to enjoy the evening. Four of them left after the lesson and treat (Dirt Cups), but the others wanted to play games. We ended up playing games until 9:00 p.m. It was a fun evening, and we look forward to FHE each week.

Owen got word last week that they were moving the RV from Montezuma Creek to Sawmill. No one was living in it at Montezuma Creek. So now instead of four hours away it will only be one hour when he has to check on it; but that is one more RV he has to check. This week we made two trips to Tohlakai, two trips to Sawmill, and one to Polacco. Polacco is all set up and running now, so it should just be the monthly checks there. Hopefully, by tomorrow afternoon the RV at Sawmill will also be set up and ready. If things go as planned, there will be four men there to help with the set up and putting the skirting on, so it shouldn't be an all day affair. We have driven past the mesa where Sawmill is a number of times, but had no idea there was a community up on top. When you head back down off the mesa, you get a spectacular view of the Ft. Defiance – Window Rock area. We finally saw the 'window rock' that Window Rock gets it name from. It is pretty neat to see.

We even had a snowstorm this week. We were expecting rain, but was quite surprised in the morning to see everything covered with about three inches of snow. It didn't take long for it to melt and the ground to soak it up because it is very dry around here.

We enjoyed the Conference sessions and talks that we were able to hear. While Owen was working at Sawmill on Saturday, I went into the Church and watched part of the morning session with the Elders. Owen and a member rode into Gallup and watched the Priesthood session at the Stake Center. Another couple and us went out to a member's home and watched the session this morning. We had a nice pot-luck lunch and visit. We were able to listen to the other sessions on the Mormon Channel, so that was good. It always seems so good to hear the brethren and sisters talk and to feel of their spirits and testimonies. It always helps to rejuvenate us and gives us a greater determination to endure to the end.

This week is shaping up to be a busy week again. We have several appointments set up, studying to do, FHE, some people that we want to visit, others we want to try and locate, and who knows how many trips to work on RVs. Each day continues to be an adventure as we try and serve the Lord and the wonderful people here in our area.