Sunday, February 26, 2012

Pruning the Vineyard

We thought this was a slow week, but as we review what we did, maybe it just seemed like a slow week. Monday was Family Day in Canada. This is a new holiday for working parents to be able to stay home and do something with their family. It's actually a good idea. We didn't know if we should visit anyone so as not to disturb their family time so we just walked around town. There were a few stores open, but not many.

Yard decorations in Campbellford
We were wondering how the Trent Hills area compares to other areas in our zone. It seems kind of small. The missionary areas follow the church ecclesiastical units so we are in the Trent Hills area (for the Trent Hills Branch) in the Kingston zone (for the Kingston District). Our missionary district (Trenton) is comprised of Trenton, Belleville, Napanee, and Trent Hills. The other district in the zone is the Kingston district which is comprised of Kingston, Brockville, and Smith Falls. There is also the Cataraqui Branch (a neighbor of Kingston) that doesn't have missionaries. The size of the cities or towns where the missionaries live are: Kingston (159,561), Belleville (48,821), Brockville (21,870), Trenton (19,374), Napanee (15,511), Smith Falls (8,978), and Campbellford (3,647). We are not the most remote town in the mission (Timmins is in the far north) and only the second the smallest (Bruce Mines has a population of 566), but we are small enough. The Trent Hills Branch is made up of the following villages: Stirling (4,906), Havelock (4,637), Norwood (4,247), Marmora (3,912), Campbellford (3,647), Warkworth (3,270), Madoc (2069), and Hastings (1208). Needless to say, Sister Wheeler feels at home. Her parents lived until recently in Connell, Washington (4,209). When we met, Sister Wheeler lived in Basin City, WAshington (968). Of course, Connell has a ward and Basin City has two wards (go figure).

Map of the Kingston District (if you can read it)
Tuesday was transfer day, NO! we didn't get transfered, but half of our district did. We made the long drive (about 2 1/2  hours) to Brampton to go to the temple with the outgoing missionaries. They like senior couples to attend so that they can have a prayer circle. Elder Robinson, our zone leader, and Elder King, from our district, were going home. We saw several of the missionaries we have known since the Brampton Stake Center is one of the transfer points. The senior missionaries had a pot-luck dinner after the temple session. It included some wild activities, restricted to seniors. In times past we had an institute class (they used to have the sessions on Thursday) so we couldn't stay. We have a new senior couple in the mission, the Higginsons. They have been assigned to the Stratford Branch. It ends up they had spent 18 months in the same branch about five years ago serving as missionaries. The ride back to Campbellford took about 3 hours because of the traffic through Toronto. When we worked in Toronto, visiting Brampton was a relief because of the slower pace. Now it seems to be rushed. Maybe we have changed.

Sister Hakaraia headed home to New Zealand
Dinner with the Dodges and President & Sister Norton (new temple president)
This is not how I remembered the story of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears"
 Because of a funeral in Napanee our district meeting was changed from Wednesday to Thursday. We spent the day compiling all the information we had on members to prepare for branch council meeting in the evening. It was a good meeting about missionary work.

Four new missionaries at our district meeting on Thursday. It was a good meeting with the zone leaders visiting from Kingston.

Sister Jungart with Sister Yi (from China) in Belleville
Elder Tripp joined Elder Stubbs in Napanee (they were companions in the MTC)
Elder Cozzens was joined by Elder Davis as our zone leaders
Elder Leasuasu (Samoan) with Elder Anderson in Trenton
 Thursday we were in Marmora for dinner with Doris and Eileen. While we were there we met Doris' daughter Tammy who is being treated for cancer. The whole family is dealing with many trials, but is demonstrating good cheer.

We were invited to sing with the community choir at St. John's United church. The leader is Barbara Hobart. She leads from the organ. We practice to CDs. We are learning music from Broadway, including "Alexander's Ragtime Band", "Oliver", and a medley. It is an opportunity to mix with others in the community.

Barbara leading the choir
 Friday was another snow day. It came down all day. We were asked to give talks in sacrament meeting so we took the opportunity to prepare them. Sister Wheeler's talk was on the temple and Elder Wheeler's talk was on family history. He got online and found out he came from Viking kings. After the 8th generation he found some names to submit to the temple as long as it doesn't matter if one of the 41 children was born 150 years after the parents.

Saturday provided the opportunity to get out to find lost members. Since many people work, it is hard to find them home. Being a Saturday afternoon we located and talked to four members of the branch in the Campbellford area, none of whom really wanted to talk to us. We also passed by two homes of people who were not at home. We only encountered one who wanted her name removed from the church (according to her husband). We were also able to talk to a former investigator which did not seem opposed to talking to us. It is interesting that we can get a weeks worth of missionary work done in one day. The question is, "What do we do for the other days of the week?" We are running out of names of people to visit and are trying to work with the branch council to develop the mission process and develop a list of potentials. Yes, things move slowly here in Trent Hills, but maybe we just need to learn to be patient.
Saturday snowman - we gave the first lesson - jk.
Trent River store (the center of town)
Well, it's Sunday again and here is another blog of our mission. We gave our talks in sacrament meeting. President and Sister Scott decided they should visit the branch to make sure Elder Wheeler didn't teach any false doctrine. Sister Wheeler substituted playing the organ for Sacrament because the organist was not going to be able to be there for Sacrament meeting. It turned out that she was able to come but she told me to go ahead. She enjoyed sitting with her husband and singing. We had our fourth-Sunday pot luck after meetings. President Holt gave us some other tasks for helping the branch. We will make an inventory of the pictures hanging on the walls and clean out closets and filing cabinets to get rid of the obsolete manuals, etc. We are well practiced from our experience with the supply room in Toronto. 
Well, that's all the news from Trent Hills for this week, stay tuned for our upcoming adventures.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Heart Attack!

We suffered a heart attack! It came in a big white envelope from our grandchildren full of paper hearts. It was good to know we are still loved.

Heart attack envelope
Hearts taped to our door
 So what does one do in a slow village during the winter? (We are told it really picks up in the summer from tourists). We have a less-active member who is deaf. We checked out a book on American Sign Language (ASL) from the library, but learned that unless you are fluent, good luck. We decided to go the "high tech" route. We downloaded an application for the iTouch that can translate spoken words into text. Given Sister Wheeler's experience with speech recognition while learning Portuguese through Rosetta Stone we are a little hesitant to use the downloaded program. It actually understands English better than Portuguese. We don't want to accidently swear at a member. It ends up he wasn't home, so we will have to try it out another day.

We saw a robin this week. Does that mean spring is coming? Not when people still have their Christmas decorations up. Actually, we really had a big snowstorm on Saturday.

Does a robin mean spring?
Merry Christmas anyway
We decided to go to a different village each day instead of making the long round in one day. Actually we visited (or tried to visit) so many people last week, there are few left. On Tuesday we visited Doris and Eileen in Marmora. They called us on Friday asking why we were late for dinner. We informed them that we were scheduled for Thursday next week. Things can get confusing at times.  It turned out that we had a mission fast on Friday. There was a bad accident at an intersection in Toronto and a car was knocked onto the sidewalk and hit two pedestrians, one of which was an Elder. He had broken bones and head injuries and was in the ICU.

We had our regular district meeting on Wednesday. There will be a few changes for next week (Elder King will be going home and Sister Arnold has been here for a long time). District pictures were in order which meant lining cameras up with a delay and running to get into the picture. At one time there were 5-6 cameras taking pictures at the same time. Needless to say, some pictures were skewed.

Sister Arnold setting up cameras
Our district:
Back row:Sisters Arnold, Sister Jungert; Us; Elder Stubbs
Front row: Elder Anderson, Elder Kwok, and Elder King (almost gone)
 We had dinner with the Havelock Holts on Wednesday evening. We decided we could write a book about branch members that could rival "Baptists at our Barbeque". We have some very interesting personalities in the branch.

Thursday we hit our half-way mark on our mission. It makes us wonder what we will face during the next nine months. We were asked to help in the Family History center since Mary had a doctor's appointment. Fortunately Joan was there and knew what she was doing. We were told about a community choir that would be practicing at 8:15 PM on Thursday. Since we were invited by the Campbellford Holts we decided to try it. We showed up early, but the choir was already practicing and the Holts weren't there. We found out later that the church choir practices until 8:15 when they are joined by members of the community. The Holts didn't get there until after we left - maybe next week.

The weather was looking good on Friday so we decided to take a little walk (that turned out being a hike). We returned to Ferris Provincial Park and took some new trails. We saw two of the main features of the park - Ranney Falls (not much water) and the suspension bridge.

Trail sign
Ranney Falls
Suspension bridge
Sister Wheeler on the bridge
Ice falls along the river
On the boardwalk

 On Friday evening we went to the church to decorate for the branch Valentines dinner. This is an activity where the men cook for the women in the branch. The party was on Saturday night. The dinner was good with salad, roast beef, baked potatoes, vegetables, rolls (including gluten-free buns), and the typical dessert: vanilla ice cream with jello and fruit cocktail (all in the same bowl, of course).

Pres Holt and Gordon carving the beef
The party decorations
They needed a high priest to hang the things from the ceiling
 Along with the food came the entertainment from the Campbellford Holts (our musical family). A vagrant (Elder Wheeler) crashed the party and joined them on a couple of musical numbers. Maybe no one will be at church tomorrow. We had four nonmembers attend the party.

Timma, Debbie, and Tim Holt
I didn't know they meant a "tape recorder"
No, this is not a harmonica - it's a mouth organ!
 It's always good to have visitors on Sunday. We had three people from the stake, the district clerks and our district council representative. Sister Wheeler was asked to lead the music in Sacrament meeting at the last minute (and didn't even have time to practice the hymns). Elder Wheeler substituted in blessing the sacrament, but he had cue cards.

As you can tell (by Elder Wheeler's humor), it's been a slow week in Trent Hills, but we keep on going.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Chinese New Year

It didn't seem like we did anything this week until we looked back to make our blog. Monday evening we hosted a family home evening in our apartment. Elder Wheeler showed some of his Uganda slides (we had a captive audience with little entertainment available during the winter months). We felt bad that Mary couldn't come, but she is in a wheel chair that couldn't fit through the narrow doors in our hallway. That was solved later in the week (not soon enough, however) when the apartment manager had to move furniture from one apartment (outside the doors) to another (inside the doors). He cut out the middle bar to open up the whole width of the hallway. The bar can be reinserted with slide hooks.

Pres & Sister Holt, Sister David and Timma Holt (daughter of the other Holt family)
Bro David, Sis Anderson, Sister & Brother Holt, & Sister Wheeler
 We worked on developing a branch mission plan this week. We had to get out on Tuesday. It was a sunny day so we went to Brighton to deposit money in the bank. We drove along the shore of Lake Ontario. When we returned we got a call from Tim Holt to help give his mother-in-law a blessing before going in for a knee replacement on Wednesday. We had a good visit with the Holts.

Lake Ontario Marina area in Brighton
Swan Lake
The biggest "Toonie" in the world (Campbellford)
 Wednesday was our big day. It started early in the morning with our 3-hour ride to Brockville. It actually only took 2 1/2 hours so we had time to pass by a couple of mills in Brockville before our 10:30 AM district meeting with the Kingston District.

Island City Mill - Brockville
Passageway to the mill
Shepherd Mill "restaurant" - Brockville
 We really enjoyed the district meeting. The senior couples outnumbered the younger missionaries. This is the farthest east district in the mission. After the meeting Elder Andersen treated us to lunch at Burger King.

Elder & Sister Firmage, Elder & Sister Wheeler, Sister & Elder  Andersen
Elders Eatchel, Little, Decker, and Wooding
 In the afternoon the senior couples went to see the China Carnival Spring Gala (the reason we were in Brockville). It was a wonderful performance which brought a little culture to celebrate the Chinese New Year. It included dancing, traditional music, and acrobats.

Chinese acrobats
Chinese dancers
Chinese music
More dancers
Dancers from Xin Jiang (home of our friend Rehan)
 Thursday was a slow day so we went "iceshoeing" in Ferris park. In Logan we have gone snowshoeing during the winter, but here it is more ice on the trails than snow.  My brother Richard sent each of us a pair of ice tires (like snow tires for the feet) so we wouldn't slip and break our backs and have to go home from our mission early. He is enjoying his peace and quite with us tucked away in a foriegn country. Anyway, they really helped in negotiating the trails. We were invited to dinner with Tim and Caroll Shearon. He is a long-distance trucker and we finally were able to meet him while he was home for a break.

Sister Wheeler showing off her iceshoes
Elder Wheeler found accommodations for a nap
Trent River along the trail
 Friday was another slow day. We worked on the branch mission plan, and walked to the library. Our dinner appointment with some nonmembers was cancelled so we will have to wait until next week to meet them.

As we worked on the branch mission plan we learned a little more about the branch demographics. There are 67 members of record. Forty of them have been assigned home teachers which leaves 27 not being contacted. There are 10 Melchizedek Priesthood holders (out of 22 men), but only six are active. There eight sisters married to members, six married to nonmembers (all inactive), 21 single sisters. The branch council needs a second branch councilor,  and executive secretary, and a branch mission leader. The reason for mentioning all this it to explain our Saturday.

We decided to make another "around the branch" trip on Saturday to see if we per chance could find some people home (which is very difficult during the week). We contacted 16 homes of people we were trying to meet. We started in Campbellford and went to Warkworth, Hastings, Norwood, Havelock, Marmora, Madoc, Stirling, and back to Campbellford (115 miles).

Map of the Trent Hills Branch area
 The road trip resulted in: 1) meeting six families (a phone introduction to a seventh), 2) meeting family members of three other members, 3) learning that four had moved with no forwarding address, and 4) two with no one home. The responses included: "Hi, I guess"; "I go to my husband's church, don't try to reactivate me"; "My husband hates the church, watch out", " My grandmother died, I'm not into God right now"; "Come back when I feel better"; "She's gone to Texas and won't be back until May"; and "We have two children that should be baptized, could you help teach them?" Needless to say, we like the last response the best.

Sunday has been a good day. We had the mayor of Trent Hills and his wife attend sacrament meeting today. He made a goal to visit all of the churches in Trent Hills and this week was our turn. We had district speakers today (like high council Sunday). They do it differently here. Brother Koerber, from the Trenton Branch, was the visitor. He had his wife, daughter, and son speak as well. We enjoy getting visitors. The Belleville sisters had invited us to attend a missionary fireside this week. We hadn't really planned on it, but decided we would take them up on their offer, so we drove down to Belleville. It was a nice fireside and we were able to help with the music. Their branch is a lot bigger than Trent Hills, but the turnout was modest. We were able to meet the other President Scott (the Belleville branch president).

Refreshments following the Belleville fireside
The fireside was very nice and there was a good spirit there. There were some testimonies of some new converts which we enjoyed hearing. It is amazing sometimes to realize that almost all of the people here did not grow up in the church. They joined the church later in their life. This is a good learning experience.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Winter wonderland

January is now officially over :-) It went by very slowly, but that's the nature of January, especially when we are making a new start. Looking at the pictures we took it doesn't seem like we did anything this week. It took us an extra long time to do the laundry on Monday because they were replacing the dryers. That way they can charge $3.00 instead of $2.00 per load. We heard about a gluten-free store that moved from Hastings to Campbellford. Had a delightful talk with Molly (the owner) and her 88-year-old mother, Eleanor. We set up an appointment to return on Friday so Elder Wheeler could play the harmonica with Eleanor. When we showed up they had forgotten all about it, but we did meet Molly's husband, Richard.

Tuesday was the last day of January. We wondered what we accomplished; then we reminded ourselves that the goal for January was to "get to know the territory".  We have visited all of the villages in the branch and found where most of the members live. We have also been to Kingston, Belleville, Brighton, and Cobourg. We are settled with the bank, pharmacy, and know where to find gluten-free food in the stores. We have been invited to dinner with several of the members of the branch and even been home teaching. We decided that January wasn't a waste after all. Now what about February? We decided to use Tuesday as a planning day to compile all the information we have gathered into our white notebook so we are ready to establish our missionary focus during February. Why does all of this take so long? We needed a break so we walked downtown to the post office, pharmacy, and library.

Two friendly snow people on our morning walk
A quaint building along the river is for sale or rent
War memorial beside the Trent River
Another snowman
 Wednesday we had another district meeting in Belleville. We miss the interaction with other missionaries we had in Toronto, so we enjoy our district meetings. Being the first of the month all the missionaries have new money in their account so they went to East Side Marios for lunch after our meeting.

A presentation in our district meeting by Elder Stubbs (from Alberta) 
Hungry missionaries at East Side Marios
On our way back to Campbellford we decided to drive by two mills. The first is Meyers Sawmill in downtown Belleville.  The second is Chisholm's Mill between Bellville and Campbellford (taking the scenic route, of course).

Meyer's Sawmill in Bellville, ON
Chisholm's Mill
 We spent Thursday morning organizing lists for less-active members and potential investigators. We passed by the family history library at the church to pick up some pedigree and family group sheet forms to use with people we visit. We were able to visit with Mary Longmuir and Madeline Charlesworth at the church. We then went across the street to find Ezmerelda, a six-year-old girl who plays the piano and may want to play a number in the church. They were not available, but requested we return on Friday. We returned to Campbellford and tried to hunt down some less-active members. One lives in a housing unit across the street from us, unit unknown. So we went tracting to find out where she lives. After several unanswered doors and one lady signaling for us to go away, we went to the housing office and found out that the member doesn't live there any more - Oh well, another lost soul. At another home we talked to the grandfather that informed us his granddaughter was not active in the church. It was good to get out finally, even though not much came from our effort.

We had two scheduled appointments for Friday :-) As mentioned earlier, Molly and her mother had forgotten. We did visit Ezmarelda and her father Michael, however. She was full of enthusiasm. Sister Wheeler visited with her, including playing a game of "Connect Four", having a tour of the house, playing with legos, and listening to her play the piano while Elder Wheeler talked to her father (about so many wild topics he couldn't keep track of them). We invited them to church. Since we were in the "neighborhood" we decided to go on to Peterborough, the town to the northwest of us. We were able to find some items in the stores that we had expected we would need to get in Toronto. On the way back we passed by two more mills, Hope sawmill and Lang Gristmill (associated with a pioneer village - which was closed).

Hope Sawmill
Frozen pond at Lang Mill
Lang Mill
 We normally take a half-hour walk in the morning between reading the Book of Mormon (in Portuguese, of course) and breakfast. This doesn't leave much time to explore. On Saturday we decided to have breakfast first and go on a "hike" in Ferris Provincial Park. It is listed as "hard" in the trail guide, but was very easy. We enjoyed getting out in nature without the rush to get back.

Sister Wheeler pointing to the white trail
Nap time on a park bench
The stone wall

 When we got back we received a couple of phone calls. The first was from the gospel doctrine teacher requesting a substitute for Sunday. The second was from the elder's quorum president requesting a substitute for the priesthood lesson. Since Sister Wheeler was substituting for the music she thought it was fair for Elder Wheeler to give both lessons. We are anticipating a total branch rebellion after having to hear two lessons in a row from Elder Wheeler (except for those who were away from church). It is good to be part of the branch and to help out in any way we can, however.

Well, this is the news from Trent Hills. Next week has some interesting things scheduled, but you will have to stay tuned to find out about them (just in case they fall through).