Saturday, June 2, 2012

Memorial Day. We spent Memorial Day at Eastlawn Cemetery in Provo and went up the Canyon for a picnic lunch with my brother, Larry, his extended family and grandchildren, and with Rick and Cathy Jones and their daughter. Trista, Darin and three of their children came the afternoon before and spent the night with us. They were also a part of Monday’s events. 

We enjoyed a rip-roaring “Ticket to Ride” game that Luke won. We had a pleasant Sunday and a holiday Monday with them. Good food too!
Decorated graves at Eastlawn Cemetery
It is quite the Memorial Day tradition for families to gather and decorate graves at the cemetery. It is beautiful and special to watch. In our case, we were at the graves of my parents, Larry’s son Scott, my older brother Doyle, and a memorial bench dedicated to the memory of my brother Scott who was lost as sea in the Hawaiian Islands. We haven’t lived that close to celebrate on Memorial Day before. 

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Memorial Day picnic celebrated with "root" beer
A visit to the dentist. We have been assigned to the Family and Church History Headquarters Mission while we are waiting on our visas to come through. Tuesday we traveled to Salt Lake City to have our first day in our new assignment. I went to the dentist and found out I needed a root canal procedure. And the dentist was leaving in a few short days for a two week vacation. 

I developed acute pain in the region of my wallet as we had terminated our dental insurance a month before. Besides contributing to the dentist’s cruise fund, I am trying to absorb what passes for good news, “Aren’t you glad it happened now instead of in Mongolia?”

“Glad” isn’t the word I would have used. The Lord has blessed us so much that in the larger perspective of things, this was just a bump in the road. We heard of other missionary accounts of dental problems on their missions -  they survived.

I was in the dental chair for well over two hours. I went back again on Thursday for another extended stay in the dental chair. The final appointment for the permanent bridge to be installed will be on June 25 so even if the visa comes through before then, I can’t leave until the work is done. 

Other challenges.The car we were driving heated up and leaked engine coolant. By Friday we were driving the Jones’ Expedition instead of the beater that liked Provo and vicinity much better than the trip to Salt Lake City. We will probably be moving up to Salt Lake City for the remainder of June. More about this next week.

Someone hacked into my email and and sent spam to my contact list. My ATT account was suspended. We struggled to get our emails reconstituted complete with new passwords. It took serious and tedious conversations with ATT and Yahoo IT experts who spoke native English (think India) that was a test of our newly acquired foreign language abilities. It was trying experience but we were successful in getting our emails up and running again. 

Family and Church History Mission. When I finally made my way back to the mission office from my dental appointment, I found my wife being trained by one of the training missionaries, Elder Speidel. We were assigned to be trained in Family Search, New Family Search and all aspects of computer generated research. Darlene was having a thrill a minute in this mission, learning the ins and outs of computer based research. I was brought up to speed that afternoon.

Our trainer, Elder Speidel, reconfigured our computer and downloaded the right programs to have so we will be equipped to do our work in Mongolia. The diversion to Salt Lake and visa wait has been well worth it.  We needed this training just like the other training we’ve received.

In our training, we are receiving some long needed basic computer skills. We were able to use our computers in the past but now we have more understanding of how things are stored and how to find things easily. We also picked up two 8 gig flash drives. All our genealogy and family history images are stored and used on these flash drives, along with training films and documents. The PAF backups go onto the computers. 

We are using PAF again. The church cannot choose one family history software over another, i.e., Legacy, Family Roots, without getting into a lot of trouble. They want the Family History Support people to use PAF. Contrary to what we've heard, PAF is not outdated. What you do need to do is buy Family Insight ($25) to supplement the free PAF program. Family Insight keeps up with changes in technology and interfaces with temple records.

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Elder Speidel training rookies to be computer geeks
This mission has more than 400 missionaries assigned to a broad and sophisticated range of duties – Collections, Library Services, Special Projects, Data Quality, Access Services, British Services, Digital and Preservation, Deaf Services, Family Search Center, Historical Reconstitution and Data Analysis, Hosting Services, International Services, US/Canada Services, Headquarters Zones A, B and C, Digital Images Processing, and World Wide Patron Services. Everything the Church does is first class.

In this case it is an IT mission being run by senior couples and young disabled Elders (more on that later). Old geeks and young geeks running state-of- the-art information age technology for the church…who knew?

When new missionaries come to this mission, they are first trained for two weeks in the “training zone” like the training we were receiving. At the end of their two weeks, they are assigned to one of ten different zones in the mission. We already know our next assignment, indexing Russian and Spanish records in the “Historical Reconstitution and Data Analysis” zone. They were delighted to get someone with Darlene’s Russian language abilities if only for two weeks.

Our morning training zone meetings start off with 15 minutes of video humor and slapstick (U-Tube clips) before getting into the serious side of things. What an usuaual sight! Seeing senior couples having belly laughs to start the day. We also received training and inspiration from two of the mission presidency and watched a compelling film on the importance of family histories to accompany genealogical research. 

One aspect of this mission is especially heart rending. The church has screened about 70 young missionaries with disabilities including Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism to work in this mission. They work on computers and have other duties. They live in apartments like other missionaries and serve for two years. They are lovable and dedicated. I had no idea the church was doing this. They work side by side with Senior couples and fit right in.

The Tuesday Night Devotional at the Missionary Training Center. We commuted back to Provo for our Mongolian training in the evenings and also for the Tuesday night devotional. This week it was Elder Zwick from the 70s who gave a ringing message on the central focus of using the Book of Mormon in the conversion process.
In 1968 Elder Zwick was serving in Topica (?), Southern Bolivia.  They were serving in remote villages and sometimes rode horses to get from place to place.  He needed some surgery and he and his companion rode to the hospital (unbeknownst to his Mission President.)  They carried with them 20 Book of Mormons.  While in the hospital he wrote his testimony and attached it in each book with a picture of his family.  When they left the hospital they noticed that all the books were gone.  They had no idea who picked them up. 

After 18 years Elder Zwick returned with a general authority, Elder Ballard.  They entered a filled coliseum.  After the meeting a man came up to him and showed him one of the books he had left at the hospital years ago.  The man had carried the book around for several years and just about threw it way.
Then one day he picked up the book and read the testimony of Elder Zwick had written.  He read the book and knew it was true immediately.  His wife was also convinced of it’s truth.  They contacted the missionaries and after 2 weeks they were baptized. 

He told of how the Book of Mormon was instrumental in the conversion of his father.  When his father was a young 17 year old, he lived with his family lived in Idaho. He had many LDS friends.  He was interested in learning more about their religion but he father would not allow the missionaries in their home. 
It was 1940 and there weren’t many presents under the tree.  The missionaries wrapped up the Book of Mormon and gave it to the young man as a gift.  On Christmas morning he opened the gift, took the book to his room and read all day.  He read the book in 6 days and  decided that he would take the missionary discussions in the LDS church building down the street from his house.  The Book of Mormon was an important part of his father’s conversion and it has remained precious in Elder Zwick's own life. 


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