Sunday, April 26, 2015

     Another week full of new adventures here in our Lupton area. I guess the big news for the Navajo Nation is that they finally have elected a president – some five months after the fact. It has been quite the roller coaster with the election being on, then off again, numerous injunctions filed people's jobs at stake, and a lot of apathy because the process drug out so long. They just extended the term of the current presidency until the matter could be sorted out. Things should settle down a lot now, and everyone is anxious to see how the new president will handle things.
     One of our dear members passed away last Sunday with her funeral on Thursday. She was 92-years-old. We attended her 91st birthday party last year shortly after we got here. She had 13 children (10 boys and 3 girls). Three of the boys and one girl have already passed away. Most of her family still live in this area. They weren't able to hold the donation meeting at the Chapter House because of the election. Then they couldn't hold the funeral in the Stake Center because they had contracted to have the carpets cleaned on Wednesday and Thursday. The Chapter House was having a meeting on Thursday so it wasn't available again for the reception after the funeral. As if the family didn't have enough stress, they had to deal with all those stumbling blocks. Finally they decided to hold the funeral at the mortuary, and the donation and reception meetings at one of the brother's homes. They borrowed the tables and chairs from our church which helped out a lot. In spite of all the hitches, things seemed to work out, and they had a very nice LDS funeral for her.
     We took some food out to the family on Tuesday. One of the granddaughters-in-law followed us out to the truck as we were leaving. She asked if Elder Olsen could give her a blessing. She told us that her sister had had a baby earlier in the day, and it had passed away. She was having a hard time dealing with it all. Owen called the senior couple in St. Michaels and made arrangements for them to go to the hospital and give the sister a blessing. Then he gave her a blessing. I guess when the missionaries got to the hospital there were five other family members there, and they were able to give them all blessings also. The family also asked the missionaries to give a prayer and a blessing at the graveside service for the baby. It is pretty cool to see the faith that the people (even non-members and others less active) have in the power of the Priesthood.
     We had to make two trips to Wide Ruins this week to take kids to school. Then several trips to Gallup and a trip to St. Michaels for our District Meeting. It seems strange to have only four couples at the District Meeting. We can all fit around one round table in the District Leader's front room. We enjoy the association we have with them; however, three of us are short-timers. Doesn't seem possible, but it is true. The days are speeding by, and we still have lots we want to get done.
     We were able to finish the fourth missionary discussion with three of the investigators this week. So we will keep nourishing them and encouraging them towards baptism. Hopefully, we will be able to see that happen before our time is over.
     Owen gave an art lesson to an eleven-year-old this week. He helped him paint a mountain scene. He was pretty excited. Owen has had to break out his paints and brushes because several people have asked for one of his paintings. I guess we could say he is becoming famous.
     We went out to a member's home yesterday to observe part of a purification ceremony for her twelve-year-old daughter. It goes for four days. The schools will excuse the girls because they realize the importance of the ceremony. She has to run several times a day and do various skills (such as killing and preparing a sheep, cook, make fry bread, and other skills that a Navajo woman is expected to do). She is dressed in a velvet dress and has turquoise jewelry on that anyone who wants a blessing will loan to her for this time. On the first day, a big pit (4 feet around and about 8 inches deep) is dug. They start a fire in it and keep it going day and night for the four days. The girl has to grind corn (on a stone), and then an older woman will help her make a cake batter (gallons of it). On the last day, the ashes are removed from the pit. Then they line it with wet corn husks and foil. The cake batter is poured into the pit. Then they cover the batter with more corn husks and foil, and build another fire on top of it. The cake will cook in the pit over night. On the last night, the medicine man comes to the hogan. The girl stays up all night while the medicine sings songs and gives her blessings. There is a lot more to the ceremony and a lot more symbolism involved. We only saw a small fraction of it. Pretty interesting. Relatives and friends will come from far and wide to show their support for the young lady.

     So the missionary work continues to go forth bringing with it new adventures along the way.
Toadlena Trading Post/Rug Museum

A Master Weaver

Round rugs are a new design 

An intricate woven rug

Our Two Gray Hills rug

The old stove in the trading post 
Our Lupton rug being woven

A new paint job for Lupton's storage building

The honored young lady

Sunday, April 19, 2015

 Another week has past, and the adventures just keep coming. We have given up trying to plan out an entire day, because we know it will never turn out to be the way we planned. We definitely have to be flexible and have lots of patience.
We had the opportunity this week to go with another senior couple, the Jensens, and visit the rug museum at Toadlena. They have the Two Gray Hills and Toadlena rugs. They are considered the elite of all the Navajo rugs. The wool is spun finer. The rugs are woven very close together, so they are lighter than rugs from other areas, and so very beautiful. I looked through one of the books featuring some of the master weavers from that area. It was a big, thick book, but it didn't take me long to discover that no two rug designs are alike; not even those done by the same weaver. It is fascinating to see all of the variations in designs. There was a tour group of about eight women there when we got there, so we got to watch a master weaver demonstration, and also see how they card the wool to prepare it for spinning. The museum had prepared a Navajo taco lunch for the tour group and invited us to join them. We sure picked a good day to go! It was especially neat because Elder Jensen served his first mission in that area over 50 years ago. So he shared some of his experiences and stories of what it was like back then.
Another day we took two ladies from here with us and went to Holbrook to the doctor. He worked Owen and them over and things are beginning to improve. I said that we had a “Mary” good time that day because both of the ladies' names are Mary.
We visited with our Branch President, and his ankle is continuing to improve. He is hoping to be back to work next week. While we were there, he asked Owen if he wanted a blessing. So he and his son gave Owen a blessing in Navajo. Not just sure what he said, but the Spirit was very strong. All of us were emotional afterward. He is a spiritual giant and has so much faith. Today in Church, he asked the members to fast one or two meals this week and pray for Elder Olsen so that he will be able to finish his mission. Never saw that one coming.
One of our friends has decided to try his hand at painting. He came by yesterday to show Elder Olsen his first attempt at a landscape. It was very good. Owen gave him a few pointers on shading, etc., and even showed him how a yucca stem can be used as a paintbrush. Now he wants Elder Olsen to also teach his 11-year-old son a few things about painting.
We continue to work with our investigators and nourish the members as much as we can. We love to go and visit with them, listen to their stories, and feel of their special spirits.

Today was an awesome day for us. As we looked around those in attendance at Sacrament Meeting, we realized that all four of our convert baptisms were there and three of our investigators. One of the converts passed the Sacrament for the first time today. Owen also had the special opportunity of blessing Marianya's baby brother, Sasuke, one of our many Navajo grandchildren. Owen refers to today as a “peak” experience for us as missionaries. It was certainly a highlight for us to remember and cherish.
More ruins at Chaco Canyon

Some of the fascinating ruins at Chaco Canyon
More ruins
Chaco Canyon doesn't seem like a likely place for elk to live

Some day I'll be as spectacular as this old tree.

Coxes at Window Rock Park

The end of the slot canyon
Inside the slot canyon
A view inside the Canyon
Entrance to Antelope Canyon
Hoop dancer before Antelope Canyon tour
The last five couples of the Window Rock District - two of the couples
went home the next week.

Us with Sasuke and Marianya

Some of the "elephant" cliffs by Lupton

Monday, April 13, 2015

It seems as though the time is really speeding up. We think of all the things we need and want to get done before we leave and don't know how we are going to accomplish it all.

Good news – I have my computer back! Our son was able to save a lot of the files, for which I am grateful. Instead of names, though, each file has a long number. So when I have a few minutes, I check some of them and see if they are for the trash or to save. It will take a while, but it will be nice to have some of those files back, and to be able to type things up that I need to.

We made two trips to Holbrook this week to see a chiropractor for Owen's back. We took one of our investigators with us both times. She has been having numbness in her legs and hasn't had good balance when she walks. The doctor was able to help both of them. She is so excited that she can walk straight now. Every time we see her, she has to walk back and forth for us to show us how well she is doing. She has accepted the baptism challenge, but it probably won't be for another month or so.

We also have two other investigators that have agreed to baptism. We hope one will be in two weeks and the other one not long after that. They are both great men and have become dear friends to us. The older one will be the only member in his family, but he says that his wife totally supports him in his decision to be baptized. In fact, he says that she won't let him do anything wrong. The other one is our little Marianya's father. We are excited for the day when that happens. They are such a cool little family.

We finished the Temple Preparation lessons this week with a young man. Can't wait for the day when we will go with him to the temple. It is interesting to see how the Lord has prepared certain people to hear either the Gospel or Temple lessons. We just have to be in tune and put forth the effort to do our part.

At our District meeting this week we got to meet the new couple who will be in the Employment Office in St. Michaels. They are from Oregon and will be here for 18 months. Our new Zone Leader and his wife, serving in Monument Valley, also came to our meeting. So we still had five couples. It was a very spiritual meeting with several sharing some of their missionary experiences. We look forward to the District meetings and being able to associate with the special couples in our District.

Today was our last Stake Conference with the Gallup Stake. We thought two of our investigators and three or four members would be riding with us. But, things came up and we ended up with only one member and her younger brother. Our Mission President and his wife were also at the Conference and spoke, as well as the Albuquerque Temple President and his wife.

Spring is definitely coming to the Lupton area. The trees at the church have bloomed and are now getting their leaves. Everything seems to be greening up. We have seen lizards, bunnies, squirrels, lots of prairie dogs, lambs, colts, puppies, road runners, tulips, lilacs, daffodils, etc. Some of the schools are even starting their year-end-testing this week, which is a sure sign.

We continue to have new adventures each day – no two days are ever alike. We see the Lord's tender mercies in the lives of the people we serve. It is so neat to see their countenances change as they come to accept and live the Gospel. We love the work, our area of service, and especially the special, special people that have become a part of our lives.

I had a number of pictures that I planned to put on the blog this week. I have tried three different times, without success, to get them to download to the blog. So I decided to go ahead and post the letter. I will keep working on the photos and will post them when, or if, I can get it all to work.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

All those service projects that Owen worked on finally caught up with him big time. He has been having a lot of back pain. Monday we had to make a trip to Sawmill to take some stuff to the couple up there. When she saw how much pain Owen was in, she called a doctor in Holbrook that they had gone to and felt he had really helped them. We were able to get Owen an appointment for Wednesday.

Monday evening my youngest sister, brother-in-law, and their two girls came to our place for a visit. The girls were on spring break, so they decided to take a road trip. What better place to go than Lupton, Arizona?

On Tuesday we went to tour Chaoco Canyon where the Anasazi Indians lived about a thousand years ago. There are ruins from several “Great Houses”. It is an amazing place, hard to imagine how they built them, and what their life must have been like way back then. They figure this was the center, or hub, of the Anasazi civilizations. From here they moved to Aztec (up by Farmington), and then to Mesa Verde. The thing that is cool here is that they are all on flat ground, not too far off the road. You can walk through them and try to imagine what each of the separate rooms were used for. Other than being a very long day and a little on the hot side, all went well. We even saw three elk as we were leaving the Park. Owen didn't go with us because he decided to try taking it easy and see if his back would begin to feel better.

We drove to Holbrook on Wednesday for Owen's appointment. We didn't realize that they are on Arizona time, so we were plenty early. Arizona doesn't do Daylight Savings, but the Navajo Reservation does. So sometimes it can be confusing. We drove through the Petrified Forest on the way home. Each time we go there, I am amazed at how many petrified trees could end up in one area. Talk about climate change. The only trees in that area now are just the petrified logs on the ground.

We got home with about an hour to spare before Family Home Evening. Some of them brought soup, rolls, and a melon. So, in addition to Home Evening, we had a delicious meal together. We had nine people come besides our six, so that pretty well fills our front room. I keep thinking one of these weeks we will have to move to the church to hold our meeting. We sure enjoy the association with have with them.

Owen's back was feeling about 70% better the next day. He could even stand up from the chair by himself without winching from the pain. He felt that it was another tender mercy that we went to Sawmill when we did and was able to find out about this doctor.

My sister's family left on Thursday, but not before a shopping excursion at the Nugget store in Gallup, and a stop at the Window Rock Park to have their picture taken with the Code Talker statue and the Window Rock arch. We enjoyed their visit so much. It seems like whenever anyone comes, the time speeds up so much. They just get here, and then it is time to tell them good-bye.

We had a final Zone Conference and interview with the Mission President this week. It doesn't seem possible. There were seven couples that spoke and our Mission President because we will all be going home before the next Zone Conference. Our numbers just keep getting smaller. We did meet the new employment specialist missionaries. They will live in St. Michaels and will be in the Window Rock District. We have also heard that there is a CES missionary couple coming in July, and they will be assigned to Ft. Wingate. They will be the only senior missionary couple in the Gallup Stake. So that will be two couples in the Window Rock District.

One of the office assistants talked to me after the Zone Conference. She was helping the President do a report about missionary assignments to the different wards and branches. She pointed out to him that Lupton didn't have any elders assigned to it. She said that the Lupton Branch is the only area in the whole mission that does not have young missionaries assigned to it. She had been worried about the Lupton area, but said that after hearing our testimonies, she wasn't worried about Lupton any more.

We were able to go to a member's home and catch a couple sessions of General Conference and have a nice lunch. I watched the others on the computer at the church. Thank goodness for modern technology that makes these things possible. We had an investigator come and watch one of the sessions with us. She seemed to enjoy it and was impressed with the messages.

Well, we will be starting the week out with both feet on the ground running and trying to keep up with all the things we need to be doing. I am sure there will be new adventures awaiting us and we look forward to them.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Sorry about the lateness of the blog post this week. My computer did a major crash a week ago.
We had no choice but to box it up and send it home to our son who is a computer whiz. We are keeping our fingers crossed that he will be able to save some of the files, pictures, etc. You don't realize how much you use the computer until it is gone. Someone gave me the idea to come over to the church house and use their computer so I could still do some of my stuff. Hopefully, this works.

We had our District Meeting last week. It was the last meeting for two of the five couples. One is going home to Salt Lake and the other one to Alaska. We are certainly going to miss them. There is another couple coming in to replace the employment couple in St. Michaels. We have also received word that there will be a new CES (Seminary & Institute) couple coming in July. But by that time, all of the rest of us will be gone. The CES couple is suppose to be in the Gallup Stake, though; so they will have at least one missionary couple.

We were able to give the first two PMG lessons to a dear sister. She is really interested and seems to soak up everything we say. The neat thing is that she also comes to our Family Home Evenings, so she has been able to make some friends in the Branch. When we met with her on Friday, I asked her if she would try and come to church on Sunday. Her reply was, “Try, no. I WILL be there. That was pretty exciting. In fact, we were having a pot luck dinner after Church and she had already bought the stuff she was going to bring.

Owen had the opportunity of teaching gun safety and doing some target shooting with a family. I don't remember seeing that anywhere in the missionary handbook.

On Saturday four couples got together and went to Page to tour Antelope Canyon (a gorgeous slot canyon). It was so pretty, but quite expensive. The regular price is $48 - $58 depending on what time you go on the tour. Another perk for missionaries – they let all of us go through for free. I was surprised at how many people were touring it. The good thing, though, is that they divide you up into smaller groups of about 12-15 with your own tour guide. So that really helped as far as being able to hear and also take pictures. It made for a very long day because Page, AZ is four hours away one way.

We got a phone call from our Branch President on our way home asking us to come to his home because he needed a blessing. I guess he had stepped in a hole while at the flea market and broke his ankle.

We had a good turnout for Church on Sunday. Since it was the 5th Sunday and then General Conference followed by Stake Conference it was our Fast Sunday. We had a delicious meal after the meetings and even ran out of food. Then we had an Easter egg hunt for the children. I say “for the children”, but I think there were more adults out searching than there were children. Everyone seemed to have a good time. We certainly enjoy the socials that we have like this. I know we will miss them big time.

I have pictures to go with the blog, but I'll wait and post them when I get my computer back and can download them from my camera.

We are so grateful for all the help and blessings that the Lord gives to us on a daily basis. It is going to be hard to go back to the “real world” when the time comes.