Sunday, December 27, 2015

Time back in Utah, Improving health for Debbie, Retirement Celebration and Christmas

It's been three weeks since we last added to our blog.  After the last writing we had two wonderful days with Elder Gay, Elder Sitati and Tim Sloan who went through an operational review with our Self-Reliance management team in Frankfurt.  This also included participation with our DTA and Area Presidency.  After helping them get to the airport on Wednesday, December 9, we also left Frankfurt on Thursday to return to Utah for the remainder of the year.

We arrived in Utah on the evening of December 10 and immediately had a spinal block for Debbie the next day.  This was her last test.  Once we had a few follow-up appointments we learned that there was no sign of Multiple Sclerosis in the spinal tap, which is wonderful news!  There is a small hole in her heart, which may have caused some of her problems, but that is common and can be treated with a daily minimal dose of aspirin.  She has also had good enough success urinating with the medication that she is receiving, that the urologist has suggested that she only needs intermittent cauterization.  So overall, very good news for Debbie's health.  We should be able to serve our mission without major difficulties as long as we keep on the correct medications!

On December 11, we took many adult family members to "The Forgotten Carols" performance.  This has been one of our family traditions for many years with different children.  This time we had 19 of our family together at the same performance and of course it was once again a wonderful experience.

The next Wednesday, December 16, we were able to enjoy a retirement celebration for my 36 years of employment with Church organizations.  Wonderful gifts were given, but even more importantly, I was able to meet up with bosses and colleagues from most of those years.  That included a visit from John W. Creer, the President of Farm Management Company during the 10 years that I worked there and Elder Ulisses Soares, who was my boss for most of the time that I worked in Brazil.  We were also pleased to have Elder John Carmack and Elder Richard Cook with us.  They were my bosses during 10 years with the Perpetual Education Fund.  The celebration included messages and gifts from Mike Murray and Elder Robert C. Gay, who have been my bosses during the past three and a half years.  These were my primary bosses during my career, but I was so pleased to see other work colleagues from each of the companies and organizations that I worked with during the past 36 years. The words that were shared were very kind and the gifts were unique and memorable.  I have been so blessed to associate with such wonderful people during all of these years and to receive a good salary while spending most of my waking hours helping to build the Kingdom of God on the earth.

Special Gifts included:

Retirement Clock from the Church

Mike Murray gave me this jersey from my favorite Baseball Team
With my name and 36 for my years of service

A special  bronzed 3 legged stool, one of the early symbols of the Self-Reliance Initiative

Signed letter from the First Presidency and a special frame of many of my business cards, presented by my wife, Debbie

The following weekend we had a few unique family Christmas parties.  On Saturday we had our annual party with the posterity of my mother, including a special guest.

On Sunday, December 20, we met with our own posterity in our condominium clubhouse.  We had seating for nearly 50 and did not have very many empty seats.   We love our children and our grandchildren.  As we spend more time with them, we recognize what a sacrifice it truly will be to leave them for the next year and half.  However, we know that all will be fine in our absence.  We  could tell this by their united effort to "prank" us for our party.  We show up in Sunday dress and all of them showed up in pajamas.

On December 23, I was finally able to get our daughter Camila a temporary green card to replace her lost green card until her citizenship certificate is received.  This will now help her to renew her state identification card and receive other SSI benefits that she is needing to maintain her care at the Millcreek Health Center.  This was the culmination of several visits to Immigration Services, including the expedition of the application for her citizenship certificate.

Finally we had our own "shepherd's dinner" on Christmas Eve with four of our single sons and two of daughters tight their families.   Christmas morning was spent primarily with four of our four single sons, which was a very special time.  Throughout the week and on Christmas day, we were able to visit with just about everyone of our children that live in Utah and by Skype with our family in Pennsylvania.

We were privileged to perform home teaching visits to wonderful members in our ward and to make a few visits to widows and others in our condominiums.  We even were able to have dinner at the home of Elder and Sister Vassel, who served before us in Germany.   We feel so much love from those around us.

What a wonderful Christmas season!

Finally, today, December 27, Debbie and I were able to speak in our Sacrament Meeting and give our welcome and farewell talks in our ward.  We have only been able to attend this ward limited times since we moved in, while we have spent so much time in Europe.  Today, Debbie woke up with a terrible flu, the same that my mother had earlier in  the week. However, with perseverance and faith she arrived in Church and was blessed to be able to share her thoughts with clarity and strength.  I took her right back home after and she has been in bed since.  We certainly witnessed one more miracle to see her speak for 15 minutes while so sick.  God is good!

We now enter into our last week before entering the MTC on January 4.  We have a few more preparations, a few more meetings with Europe and hopefully a little bit of relaxation.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Christmas Markets and Seminar in Germany

Our first week back in Germany has been wonderful.  Our primary purpose in coming back to Germany this last time was to prepare for and help carry out a seminar for our 10 Self-Reliance Services managers and the two members of our Operations team.  Our new Area Self-Reliance manager, Thomas King, led the way, while we were able to support him and the seminar.  After three days of preparation, we had our monthly Self-Reliance Committee meeting early Thursday morning and then spent the remainder of Thursday and Friday holding a seminar for our managers.  We feel like it went very well, more about that later.

In the past few days we have been to the airport several times to take and pick up many including Elder Joseph A. Sitati and Elder Robert C. Gay.  They will both be spending time with us during the next two days in an Operational Review of the Self-Reliance Initiative in the Europe Area.  In a few moments of calm, we had time on Saturday to visit the Christmas Market in Frankfurt, Germany with our friend Tim Sloan.  Tim also came to Germany for the Operational Review.  He visited the Christmas market with us and treated us to a wonderful dinner.

Christmas markets are a big deal in Germany!  Most cities have them.  They are full of lights and food and Christmas decorations.  The one in Frankfurt is one of the bigger ones.  The following photos show a few of the highlights:

Back to the seminar.  We have wonderful managers in Europe.  We absolutely love working with them.  In our seminar we spent a lot of time discussing the doctrine of Self-Reliance.  They all have such wonderful thoughts that it was difficult to move through the agenda materials.  However, in this process, we all felt the spirit over and over, testifying of the truth of the principles that we discussed.  As part of the seminar, we had a Thursday night team building activity at a bowling alley.  This was a wonderful experience.  The photos below show the team waiting for dinner at the Bowling Alley and then Debbie, as she gave specific awards to each of the managers the next day.  Unfortunately Elder Sitati had some problems with his flight in and did not arrive in time to participate in the seminar.  He is currently in Rome, giving training and a devotional to the Saints there.  He will be back with us for the next two days.  All in all, we loved our seminar and our managers.  We feel like it was a great success.

Finally, as we prepare for our meeting tomorrow, I noted the following gingerbread house in the hotel where our visitors are staying.  By the way German Ginger Bread is very good!