Sunday, January 29, 2012

More rain, ice and snow

The Trans Canada Trail is around the block from our apartment
The title tells you what we dealt with this week. It started with rain on Monday. We decided to venture out anyway. We tried to find a couple of members on the outskirts (long skirts) of Campbellford. We then went on to Marmora, Madoc, and Eldorado. We found some of the homes, but no members. Returning through Madoc we came across O'Hara sawmill. It was a nice park that is open to walking year round, but the buildings are only open in the summer.

Bridge in O'Hara Mill Park
O'Hara Sawmill in Madoc
 On the way back to Campbellford we passed by the church. We saw the manger scene they set up for Christmas. The branch tried to get a time to take it down, but couldn't decide when would be best. We decided for them and took it apart and stored it in the attic of the church. [Note: the reason there is no snow in the manger scene picture is because it was taken in December before we moved to Campbellford].

Manger scene in front of the church
On Tuesday we went to Hastings to find more members. We had just left one house when they drove into their driveway - we turned around and met them. "Why do you people keep coming by?" was the question. "Because you are members of our church," was the answer. The branch president had heard about this family, but had never met them. It ended up the wife (of record) died about 48 years ago. The current wife practices the Ba'hai faith and the husband joined the Ba'hais about 17 years ago.  We had a cordial visit, but left with a note requesting he no longer be a member of the church. We thought we were sent to Trent Hills to build the branch. Already we have two fewer members than when we started, one by death (a long time ago), the other by choice.

None of our dinner appointments fell through this week. We had dinner with President and Debbie Holt on Tuesday. She is also gluten-intolerant so the meal was easy (and delicious).

President and Sister Holt
On Wednesday we went to Norwood hunting down members. We found one house and parked just off the road. As Elder Wheeler was getting out of the car, the car started sliding down the driveway into the road. Superstar (Sister) Wheeler was able to get her left leg across the gearshift island (try that in a long skirt) and hold down the break to stop the car. We decided to park along the road where it was flat. As we were going up the driveway Elder Wheeler started to slip. Sister Wheeler tried to catch him and slipped herself. No broken bones :-) No, no one was home.

The slick driveway with skid marks where the car slid
Other side of the driveway where we slid trying to walk up it- our car parked on the road
 We were able to visit with the Carmichaels. He raises jumping horses. They live at the end of a long snowy road, but it had been sanded so we got there OK. In the evening we had branch council (like ward council, but smaller). We were impressed with their organization and enthusiasm for helping their neighbors learn about the church.

We needed to catch up on several things on Thursday. In the evening we had dinner with the Campbellford Holts - Tim, Debbie, Timma, and Debbie's mother Madeleine. They are the musical family in the branch. Debbie plays the piano and organ, Tim teaches art at the high school, and they all sing. Sister Wheeler had the opportunity to play their piano as we waited for dinner.

The Campbellford Holt family
After dinner, Elder Wheeler went home teaching with Brother Rowan (his companion was not available).  We visited Cindy and Nicole Buott. We then stopped by to give a blessing to Sister Morgan followed by a visit to the Grattons (Cindy's parents). We then went half way to Stirling to visit Sister Shannon. It was good to meet some of the members of the branch.

Nicole and Cindy
Friday was the scary day. We had freezing rain all night Thursday and zone skills and interviews with President Scott at 9:00 AM Friday in Kingston (two hours away) . Elder Wheeler decided to take up ice sculpturing.  After working on his masterpiece for half an hour Friday morning, low and behold, he found our car (the trees were encased in ice, sorry we didn't get any pictures). The roads out of Campbellford were a sheet of ice. Schools were closed. By the time we got to Stirling the roads had been sanded. By the time we hit the freeway the roads were clear. The weather changes from one village to another here in Eastern Ontario. We had an enjoyable visit with President and Sister Scott and meeting with other missionaries in our zone. We don't see other missionaries very often, unlike in Toronto where we met with them almost every day. President Scott reaffirmed to us that he feels very good about us being here in the Trent Hills branch. He was very excited.

It started snowing before we left Kingston, but was clearer as we headed west. We had a dinner appointment with Sister Shearon in Sama Park (located between Havelock and Marmora). It was a nice visit with good food.

Sister Wheeler with Sister Shearon
 Saturday was the annual Polar Plunge in Campbellford as well as several snow festivals in surrounding towns. It was also a snow day. We finally found where they were having the Polar Plunge, but it was too late to see the volunteers (for the hospital fund raiser) jump into the freezing river. We did see some polar bears, however.

Polar bears at the Polar Plunge
Sister Wheeler at the Polar Plunge - she didn't plunge, however
 We enjoyed our Sunday meetings with the branch today. The sunday school lesson was on Nephi so Brother Rowan, our teacher, requested that a group of us sing "Nephi's Courage" as a special musical number in sacrament meeting. It went fairly well with no rehearsal. In the evening was the district priesthood meeting in Kingston. Our branch was asked to provide the musical number for the meeting. It was a sunny, but cold, day. The forecast was for more freezing rain in the afternoon and evening. The weather held out and six of us loaded in a van and went to Kingston. The musical number (accompanied by Tim Holt on the guitar) went fairly well - with little practice.

On the way to district priesthood meeting
January has been a long month. It always is. Now that it is almost over, we are glad we have been able to meet a lot of wonderful members here in the Trent Hills branch. We still have fond memories of our friends in the Christie ward and the missionaries we left behind. We have visited a lot of houses with no one home. At our zone activity on Friday we met with two other senior couples, the Andersens (Brockville branch) and the Firmages (Smith Falls branch). They gave us some ideas that may work in smaller branches like ours. We are happy to be serving the Lord on a mission and may some day learn what we are doing.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Have you ever taught in the nursery?

Why would a branch where the youngest person attending church is 35 years old have a primary president? The answer: for days like today. Sister Rowen (our primary president) approached Sister Wheeler after sacrament meeting and asked if she had ever worked in the nursery. "How many years of experience do you need? Is experience in Provo, San Diego, and Logan sufficient?" No, she didn't answer like that, but could have. Brother Heaps (from Smithfield, Utah), our visiting district counselor, brought his wife and six children (they work in foster care so we don't know how many are their own) as well as Brother Wilder (who spoke) and his mother (who also spoke) and two children (one of which threw up all over the chapel). Yes, we had primary today.

Brother and Sister Heaps

Mabel, their daughter
We wonder why district leaders pick the fourth Sunday to come to Trent Hills to visit. Could it be because of the pot luck luncheon we have every fourth Sunday? Other branches do the same thing, but Sister Heaps explained that the Trent Hills pot luck has the best food. Members take time to prepare good dishes rather than throw together canned soup while getting your children ready for church. Sister Wheeler made her apple cake with caramel sauce. There was plenty of food Elder Wheeler could eat.

Our "pot luck" with Sister Wheeler and Timma Holt

The Holts: Debbie, Tim, Debbie, and President Holt

On Monday, after waiting for the cable guy again (it's finally working), we took a little trip to Brighton (34 km south) to change our address with our bank. We needed a letter to us using our new address (thanks Andrea).  
Winter time in the park at Brighton

Haute boutique in Brighton (plastic bag dress)

Tuesday we went visiting in Trent River (close to the church). We found the house of a less-active member and talked to his wife (who had requested removing her name from the church). We also followed up on a potential investigator we found in the area book left by the elders before they were taken out of Trent Hills. She didn't even remember talking to the elders. We stopped by the church to get some metal shelves for our storage room then returned to the apartment as the snow began to fall.  Our dinner appointment for the evening was canceled because the house was located on a dirt (make that ice) road out of town. 

Tour of the Trent Hills building

The entry
Our simple chapel
Our Relief Society Room
Ladies luxurious washroom 
Our vast kitchen
The attic storing the elder's old furniture
We had district meeting in Belleville again on Wednesday. Fortunately, it was a nice day for traveling. After the meeting we all went to Wendy's for lunch. 

Our District

Sister Jungert and Sister Arnold - Belleville Branch

Elder Anderson and Elder Kwok - Trenton Branch
Elder King and Elder Stubbs - Napanee Branch
On our way back to Campbellford we tried to find the house of a less-active member in the Stirling area. We did find the house on a country road. As we were going there we passed by King's Mill and couldn't resist a picture. 

King's Mill in Stirling
Thursday was another snowy day. Since the family history center is open on Thursdays, we decided to drive to the chapel and investigate. Joan had found some possible Knapp relatives for Sister Wheeler. They ended up not being part of her Canadian ancestry. Joan, from the Belleville Branch, often goes there on Thursdays to help. 

Sister Longmuir and Joan at the family history center
We had a dinner appointment with Sister Franklin in Marmora (30 km northeast) for Thursday evening. Last week she cancelled because of freezing rain. This Thursday the snow was getting heavier and we wondered if we should call and cancel, but decided to wait and see if they would cancel again, but they didn't (though they were thinking about it). We had quite an experience driving there on snowy roads and little visibility. We left early and were only 3 minutes late. It was a wonderful meal with good company. Sister Franklin lives with her sister Eileen, her daughter, Linda, and her son Rod. It's a bit confusing because they all have different last names (unlike the Holts who have the same names, but are not related). The return trip was much better. It had stopped snowing and the streets had been plowed and sanded.

Sister Franklin, Linda, Eileen, and Rod
Friday was a cold, but clear day. We decided to investigate the Apple Route, Highway 2. As we were headed for Brighton we were splashed by a truck which covered the windshield with slush and made it hard to see. The windshield washing system was frozen up and didn't work and the wipers couldn't clear the ice, so we drove as carefully as possible until we got to Brighton. We bought some washing fluid and tried to unplug the system - without success. At least we were able to clean the windshield and continue on. We drove west on Highway 2 until we reached Cobourg, a summer tourist town. Of course it was winter and very cold so we made our walk down main street very short. We were able to locate a Honda dealership hoping they could help us find and unplug the washer nozzles. They did it for us without charge. We made it back to Campbellford where we could thaw out. 

Pigs in a Cobourg store window
We were finally able to work on our long "to do" list on Saturday. We put up the pictures in our apartment, worked on locating members houses, and went through many files in the desk. We were even able to get the car washed, since the temperature got up to 2 degrees. Sister Wheeler wanted to show off our new apartment (now that we have been here two weeks), so here it is from back to front:

Apartment tour

Our cozy bathroom (we put in the white cabinet)
Our empty spare bedroom
Our "not so empty" bedroom
Our hallway
Our living room (working side) 
Our living room (lounging side) 
Our dining area
Our cozy (cramped) kitchen
We sometimes wonder if we are doing any good here. We have had a lot of bad weather and have decided not to venture out when it is really bad (except for going to Marmora last Thursday). We have a list of people to visit, but many of them live on country roads outside of villages removed from Campbellford. Then we remember that we have only been here two weeks and will have sufficient time to visit people. We don't have to do everything at once. We also have activities the younger missionaries don't have to worry about, like changing our address with banks and insurance companies and preparing for income taxes in two currencies. Today in Priesthood and Relief Society we studied President Uchtdorf's message "You Matter to Him" It was very comforting to remember "He knows where we are" and "He will use - in His own way and for His holy purposes - those who incline their hearts to Him." 

The lesson reminded Sister Wheeler of an article she read in the National Geographic about a ship drilling through the earth's crust to get to the mantle beneath. The picture below shows the challenge. We  often seem so insignificant (like the boat on top of the water) with such a tremendous task (the salvation of the souls of the world) we forget the power of the one who created this world and has already atoned for the souls of the world. We can be grateful we are a small part of this wonderful work.

Getting to the core 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Deep Freeze

When we moved into our apartment in Toronto we were happy to have underground parking for the dreaded "Canadian Winter". The winter has been very mild across most of Ontario this year - until now. Just as the winter began we moved to Cambellford where we are parking outside. The first of the week wasn't too bad, but the snow came on Thursday and the deep freeze on Friday and Saturday. We had to scrape a lot of ice off the car before we could use it. Fortunately the car started on Sunday so we were able to go to church. There wasn't too much snow, but there was a layer of ice under everything from freezing rain.

Our car after scraping
We stayed in our apartment more than we would have liked this week. On Monday we had to wait for the technician from Bell to install our internet and cable TV. It ended up being two technicians, one for the internet (which got installed and working) another for the cable (which did not get installed because he couldn't figure out the "rat's nest" of wires between the large satellite dish for the  apartment building and our apartment). After they left, we did have a chance to walk around Campbellford a little to get to know the town. 
Local store in our neighborhood

Tuesday we took a big loop around the villages that comprise our small branch. We only traveled 120 miles because our branch isn't spread out over two states like Dave & Faye in Louisiana and Texas. We had identified the addresses for most of the members of the branch and found them on maps. The trip took us through Warkworth, Hastings, Norwood, Havelock, Marmora, and Stirling then back to Campbellford. We know most of you will be clueless about these villages, but Doug (and maybe Wendell) will have their maps (or Google Earth) out trying to locate them. We were able to drive by most of the houses of branch members, some off the main roads.
Fowld's Mill in Hastings
The other Angel Moroni (also in Hastings) outside a Catholic church
Our dirty car after our jaunt
On Tuesday evening we met with the branch presidency to go over the list of members and talk about how we can help the branch. There are only two members of the branch presidency. Trent Hills is a small branch that can run smoothly without a full slate of filled positions. They struggle with making meaningful callings that help people grow and an older membership that has served in almost every calling. For example, is a primary president needed if there are no primary children? We will be doing a church record audit by finding less-active members (some without addresses) and completing the information needed for the record. This is an excuse to visit members in their homes and find out their current disposition toward the church. 

President Holt and James McComb (1st C)

On Wednesday we had district meeting in Belleville (about 45 minutes from Campbellford). Our district covers a much larger area now with Sisters Arnold and Jungart in Belleville, Elders Anderson and Kwok in Trenton, Elders King and Stubbs from Nappanee, and us from Trent Hills. The zone leaders, Elder Robinson (who was our district leader in Ossington) and Elder Cozzens came from Kingston to meet with us. It was a nice meeting. [Sorry, no pictures yet.] On Wednesday night we had a dinner appointment with Meheffin Morgan (she pronounces is like "my heaven"). Dinner appointments are something new for us to get used to. Meheffin is from Wales. She joined the church almost a year ago after living in Canada for more than 30 years. This has been a big year for her - the death of a daughter, joining the church, and cancer treatments. She has a very positive attitude and is fun to visit. In perusing the Books of Mormon in various languages in Toronto Elder Wheeler often asked, "Who would read the Book of Mormon in Welsh?" It ends up Meheffin does. She sent a copy of the Welsh Book of Mormon to her 94-year-old father in Wales. He joined the church. 

Meheffin and Sister Wheeler
 The apartment manager informed us that they had labeled the cable wires so we had another "wait around the apartment for the Bell guy to come" day, which was good because traveling in the freezing, snowy weather would not have been good. Again he couldn't find the cables, so he left without providing the services. While in the apartment we assembled and installed a medicine cabinet in the bathroom. We also cleaned out the storage closet (which was left in a real mess) where the water heater is located and the spare bedroom (which is now completely empty). Because of the freezing rain our Thursday dinner appointment was canceled.

On Friday (another snow day) the superintendents husband came with the owner to sort out the cable problem. The whole building had been rewired a year ago. Since we took over the apartment where the elders were living, and they didn't have TV, the cables had not been labeled for this apartment. We did venture out, however. After scraping off the snow and ice from the car we drove it downtown (less than a mile) to pick up a package from the post office and get our library card. That was as much adventure as we could muster on the icy roads and cold air so we headed back home.

Saturday was another cold day so we worked on dot maps (a chart showing the location of each member of the branch on their village maps).  It was still cold (did we forget to mention the wind and the added chill factor?), but the sun was shining so we bundled up in the afternoon and went for a walk. By the time we got into town we needed to warm up so we stopped by the grocery store to pick up some food. Walking to the grocery store in the cold reminded us of the days when we were first married and living on Apple Avenue without a car. We even walked to the Provo temple in the snow.

Frozen Trent River
A senior crossing with grocery bags (the sign says Seniors crossing)
 Our second Sunday in the Trent Hills branch was not eventful since the car actually started this morning. We are beginning to learn the names of the branch members. We can get to know them even better when we visit them in their homes. Since Sister Wheeler promised you in the last blog to show you why we had difficulty getting furniture into our apartment, here is the picture of our hallway doors. Each door only allows 24 inches of space. Our apartment is the first door to the left (which is conservative for Canada).

How can we get our couch through here?
 Luckily there was a door at the other end of the building and the hallway at that end did not have this problem. It did not have the elevator at that end however so the couch had to be carried up stairs to the third floor. The legs had to be taken off for it to get through our apartment door. We are all in now and pictures will come in the future.