Sunday, January 25, 2015

Springtime in Salt Lake Valley

Is this January? It's a lot more like spring. Monday was Martin Luther King Day and we decided to take a walk along the Jordan River. We took a different path and found some interesting things.
Are we in the middle of a big city?
What a sight for an Electrical Engineer
A real "Green House"
Happy Holiday 
The river runs under it
Tuesday brought our district meeting followed by a pass through Sprouts, a health-food store close by where we had the district meeting. Our cupboards are so small we always seem to be shopping for groceries. We had our missionary coordination meeting in the evening where the ward planned an exciting 3-month missionary activity.

On Wednesday we had our monthly MLS missionary meeting. It is a little strange because all the other couples are living in their own homes and are assigned to their own stake instead of a single ward. Of course our ward covers all of their 87 stakes plus some. In the afternoon we went to visit several families on the west side of the valley. No one was home, but we got a closeup view of the Oquirrh Mountains. We found out my computer had problems with the sound cutting out. That's the one I just got fixed!

We decided to go to the Draper Temple on Thursday morning and it's a good thing we did. Diane got a name that was really hard to pronounce. The temple worker asked if she were willing to take the name. It ends up that no one else was willing to take it. Maybe we were meant to be there that morning.
Draper Temple
View of the valley from the Draper Temple
We called the missionary travel office about our visas and were told that the area office in Brazil had taken charge of the problem. We will see if something changes soon.

On Friday we picked up my computer. They got another logic board from California and had it working this morning. Every time we go to church (and many other places) we pass a little store that sells string instruments. On the way to the computer store we stopped by to take a look. They not only sell string instruments, they make them. It is the Paganini label made by Charlie Liu and his group.
Louis repairing a cello
Jaime showing off their instruments
We had our first new-member lesson with Val this evening. The elders turned the lesson over to us to teach (of course we included everyone). We used the PowerPoint we had prepared which included the video of the First Vision. Diane even helped with the lesson in Portuguese. We found out on Sunday that the elders were in an accident on their way home from the lesson and totaled their car. A lady ran a red light and ran into them. They are shaken up and have shorter noses (from the air bags), but are otherwise OK.

We spent Saturday getting emails sent to stakes in Brazil. Including what was sent earlier, we sent training emails to 91 stakes with technology specialists and 161 emails to stake clerks without technology specialists. Diane really enjoys receiving and reading the return emails. Some come back within minutes of sending. 

After being in the room all day we decided we needed to go out for another walk. Each time we walk we explore a different stretch of the Jordan River. During this stretch we encountered a lot of warnings. Salt Lake Valley must be a dangerous place.
That's what that smell was!
We stayed on the trail!
Faster than an instant camera
The ducks seemed to really like the water where the effluent entered the river. It comes from a large water treatment plant. It isn't sewage, but it isn't drinkable either. The speed refers to the Trac.
Ducks like this water
Water treatment plant
The speeding Trac
As we were walking, a runner saw our name tags and called out, "O Divine Redeemer by Neil A. Maxwell, read it". When we finished our walk she passed us again and stopped to talk. Her name is Tori and she was delightful - a speed skater. Yes, it was a classic - Elder Maxwell's first talk as an apostle.
Tori stops to talk
We had stake conference this weekend. Elder Teh from the First Quorum of the Seventy was our visitor. We figured with 87 stakes in our mission having stake conferences twice a year that means there are 3.5 stake conferences every week. How is it we got a general authority? It was a good conference and he was a delight to hear. On Saturday evening they had two Brazilians speak who joined the church a little over a year ago. One spoke in English, the other in Portuguese. Diane seemed to follow the Portuguese without too much trouble. On Sunday morning they were both presented to receive the Melchizedek priesthood.  
Elder The
We have a lot of good members in the ward. It's a pleasure to be here, but we look forward to the time we get our visas and can start the mission we were called to.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

First Baptism

We had our first baptism on Saturday and confirmation today. This is extra special because it has been so long in coming. Solange joined the church many years ago, served a mission in Brazil, and moved to the US. She has talked to her parents for 30 years about the church and they had received the missionary lessons several times, but they were not interested in joining the church. Her parents often visited her in Salt Lake and would even attend meetings at times. When her mother, Val, came to visit in December she didn't plan on being baptized, but through several small miracles she decided it was time. We were privileged to assist the elders in teaching her the missionary lessons. I acted as the translator for her interview with the district leader. Val was really excited about being baptized. She talked to her husband in Brazil who is supportive (and next in the family to join). We had the last lesson on Tuesday, the interview on Friday, the baptism on Saturday, and the confirmation on Sunday.
Elder Telles & Elder Grahl Batista with Val and Solange (and the Wheelers)
Diane was asked to play the piano for the baptism and I led the music. Believe it or not, the music had to be played in Portuguese. Some of the hymns have different rhythms to fit the different words.

Such a natural at the piano
We had a nice district meeting this week. There is a good spirit about the young missionaries as they give their hearts to the work of the Lord. Elder Aguilar (our district leader) is from Mexico. His companion, Elder Kimball is from Peru. The sisters in our district are Sister Meyers from Oregon and Sister Lopez form Texas. 
Elder Aguilar and Elder Kimball
Sister Meyers and Sister Lopez
Wednesday morning was our training meeting as MLS missionaries. There is a lot of excitement among the older missionaries.

Yes we also worked on technology during the week. During the day our small room becomes an office. At times we both work at the little table and other times Diane gets the table and I get the bed. We are actually able to get a lot done. On Tuesday afternoon since we were in Riverton for our district meeting we made contact with the ICS department of the church. It felt good to communicate with them again and take our next steps as ATSs for Brazil. Whenever we get an email from one of the STSs in Brazil it makes us want to get there quickly.

We haven't been able to get our walks in like we are used to. On Saturday we decided we should take a nice walk. We parked near Gardner Village and walked along a trail beside the Jordan River. It was good to get out again. We need to do it more often.
Diane ready for our walk
A bridge crossing the Jordan River
A small lake by the river
There is an area just east of us where we always get lost. We tend to be there at nighttime and get on the wrong road to return to our room. We decided to scout it out during the daytime. It ends up that 7200 South (our street) curves around and becomes Fort Union Blvd. That's why we could never find our street at night (also the street signs are faded out such they are hard to see even during the day and impossible at night). We bought a small speaker so our videos we use for lessons can be heard easily. We also got an adapter so we can connect our Macbook or iPad to the TV via HDMI. Modern, aren't we? 

Well, we are still waiting for our visas, trying to keep busy with MLS work and technology work. Some day we will be in Brazil and this will all be a dream.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Week 2

We have now finished the second week of our mission. Do we know what we are doing yet? Of course not, but we are closer.

Jan 5 (Mon)
Was today preparation day or not? I spent a lot of the day working on a presentation for technology while Diane did the wash. It was a single load of mixed whites and colors. In the afternoon we went to the south part of our ward. When we got back we spent the evening reading through training material for a class we have this week.
This is where we live

Jan 6 (Tue)
We started the day with a district meeting in a chapel near the Oquirrh Mountain Temple. We had often wondered what it was like for missionaries serving in Utah. We found out. Being a missionary is the same no matter where you serve. The landscape may change, but the work is the same - role-play and all. Tonight we had a missionary coordination meeting. We were really surprised, it actually was run as it should be. The ward mission leader took charge. We had reports, assignments, and training for the ward missionaries who were there  in force. We received the assignment to coordinate with the elders to give the new-member lessons.

Jan 7 (Wed)
We started the morning with our MLS (member leader support) missionary training meeting. All the other missionaries are live-at-home missionaries who live in their home stake. Our topic for the day was helping members overcoming roadblocks in returning to the church. We have very good presenters and missionary couples with a lot of experience. There are eight lessons, one each week.
Getting ready for MLS training
Since we will be helping with the new-member lessons we started today to make PowerPoints for the five lessons (in Portuguese, of course). We went to an Apple store to get an HDMI interface for our Macbook. We continued taking the road the store was on and before long found ourselves at Snowbird and Alta ski resorts (yes, they not only are in our mission, they are in our ward).
Snowbird ski resort
 On the way back we could see the smog in the valley from the temperature inversion. We have lived in it all week.
Smog in the Salt Lake valley

Jan 8 (Thur)
As we were going about our morning activities we heard a knock at the door. It was the missionaries tracking out the complex. We invited them in for a chat. One was from Canada, the other from Oregon. They are serving in the Salt Lake Central Mission which covers our area, but we are also living within the ward boundaries. We decided no one really knows the boundaries here, even though I have them marked on my map.
Missionaries tracting
We decided to go to the Oquirrh Mountain Temple in the afternoon. 
Oquirrh Mountain Temple
There are actually three temples within our ward boundaries: Oquirrh Mountain, Jordan River, and Draper (we haven't passed by this one yet).

Jordan River Temple
Actually, we were mistaken - there are four temples in our ward. 
A Thai Buddhist temple near the mission office

In talking to the elders we found out there are also a Hindu temple and a polygamist temple, but we haven't seen them yet.

While waiting in the chapel of the temple for our session to start I pondered on the picture of the Savior by Harry Anderson. I have noticed that Anderson paints an older Jesus. A officiator was sitting by the painting. I could imagine Jesus to look more like him than in the painting. At the end of the session I asked how old he was - 37 (much closer to the 33-year-old Jesus than as depicted in the painting).
An older Jesus
In the evening we had the 3rd missionary lesson with Val. She really is looking forward to baptism. We used the PowerPoint I had prepared for the lesson. It included a video about the baptism of Jesus.

Jan 9 (Fri)
Today was a slower day. We worked on some more lessons. We drove through Taylorsville to find out where some members lived. The traffic was really bad. We had a planning meeting with the elders set for the evening, but they called and postponed it until tomorrow.

Jan 10 (Sat)
We were awakened at about 1 am with a knock at the door. It was a policeman who had found a 2-year-old child and was trying to find the family. That doesn't happen every day in Logan. We went out and tried to visit four families today. One address was incorrect, one had moved, and two were not home. We walked down by the Jordan River which was close to one of the families.
Sis Wheeler by the River Jordan
We also passed a chapel with very interesting brickwork.
A chapel within a chapel?
We had a good planning meeting with the elders in the evening.

Jan 11 (Sun)
Today was ward conference so we had meetings in a mixture of Portuguese and English. This evening we gave a 4th lesson to Val. We took the parents of our bishop with us (they are ward missionaries) and met the elders there. It was a good lesson. 
This is the crew. Val is the third from the right.
Well, let's see what next week brings. Hopefully some visas!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Our Mission Starts

No, we haven't received our visas yet! In talking to the mission department we decided to take a temporary assignment while waiting for our visas. We were assigned to the Mountain Shadows 1st Ward (Portuguese-speaking) in West Jordan, Utah starting on December 29, 2014.

Dec 29, 2014
We left Logan early on Monday, drove safely through the canyon and had a severe weather slowdown through Davis County and made it only 15 minutes late for a 9:00 am meeting with President Chambers, our new mission president, and his wife. We are in the Salt Lake South mission.
President an Sister Chambers
After our meeting we went to the InTown Suites extended-stay motel and moved into our new home for the next few weeks. It is small (255 ft2), with a queen bed, small kitchen table, chair, refrigerator, microwave, and a 2-burner stove.
Our bed and walk-in closet
Our kitchen, dining room, and office
In the afternoon we unpacked, did some grocery shopping, and Diane had her last Portuguese lesson with her tutor. We met with the Portuguese elders in the evening. They are Elder Grahl Batista from Porto Alegre and Elder Telles from Vitória Brazil.
Elder Grahl Batista and Elder Telles

Dec 30, 2014
We got a slow start on Tuesday. We went to the AAA office to get a map of Salt Lake that included the south valley. We then drove around a bit to orient ourselves. We ran across a fun Asian store.
Sis Wheeler in front of the Asian store
In the evening we met with the bishopric of the Mountain Shadows 1st Ward. The meeting was in Portuguese with some English thrown in. We were really impressed with the bishopric as well as the ward mission leader who was there. We got a copy of the ward list.
Mountain Shadows 1st Ward bishopric
Dec 31, 2014
Wednesday was the last day of 2014. We started with an orientation meeting for MLS couples (us) in the morning. they really have things organized here. All the other couples are living at home and are assigned to their home stake. We are the odd balls. They have an 8-week training program that we will start next week. We hope our visas come before we finish the program, however. In the afternoon, I worked on plotting the members addresses on the map so we would know where they lived. The ward is actually larger than the mission which includes 80+ stakes. Meanwhile Diane worked on responding to emails from STSs in Brazil.
      Being New Years Eve we decided to eat out. We went to the Golden Corral where we happened to meet Elder & Sister Peterson who are coordinators for Area Technology Specialists and got us into our mission. 
Sister Wheeler with the Petersons
We had a zone meeting in the evening since the missionaries would have trouble meeting with people on New Years Eve. We enjoyed it and were able to meet our district.
Missionaries at our zone meeting

Jan 1, 2015
Thursday was New Years Day. In the morning we again worked on ward maps and answering emails from STSs in Brazil. In the afternoon we went visiting. We just picked a neighborhood and found two member families. The first was the Vieira family. Her grandson has a friend that just came here from Curitiba where his father is the mission president.
The Vieira Family
From there we visited the Goes family. He helped build the Brazil area office building where we will be working. In both cases we were able to speak Portuguese.

The Goes Family
In the evening we met with the Portuguese elders again to go over the ward list to determine who could use a visit from us.

Jan 2, 2015
On Friday we went through our training book for next week. It is well organized, but a lot of reading - almost overwhelming. We went out and visited families again. We visited a lady who is less active in the church who is married to an American who doesn't like the church. She enjoyed talking to us in Portuguese until her husband came home who doesn't like her to speak Portuguese. We tried a couple of other families who weren't home. On the way back we stopped at Fashion Place Mall to find something to eat. What did we find - The Container Store - Diane's favorite store. It has finally come to Utah now that we will soon be leaving.
Diane's favorite store
Jan 3, 2015
We tried to organize our technology tasks this morning. We are actually juggling two mission. We are still Area Technology specialists for Brazil and have duties related to that mission and are MLS missionaries for the Mountain Shadows 1st Ward. We went out in the afternoon to see if we could find some people. No one was home. We went to the church to log into the internet since it is more secure for banking than in our room. The youth in the ward were playing volleyball at the church.
Volleyball at the church
Jan 4, 2015
We got the firehose today. Our meetings started at 1 pm. It was fast Sunday and we were planning on bearing our testimonies, but before the bishop turned the time over to the congregation there was a long lineup for testimonies. That's OK, though, because many others said what we would have said (and in better Portuguese). We had an excellent Gospel Principles class taught by the ward mission leader. It was larger than our Gospel Doctrine class at home. We then had priesthood and Relief Society meetings with more than 5 talking at once sometimes. What a dose of Portuguese today. We were able to go back to the room for a quick supper before meeting with the missionaries for a lesson with Val, an investigator. She is visiting her daughter who is a member. It is fun to get back into real missionary work again.
Val (in the middle) after the lesson
Well, our first week has come and gone. It has been busy and enjoyable. We'll see what next week brings (hopefully our visas).