Monthly Archives: December 2012

A True White December!

The Lord blessed the missionaries of the Florida Fort Lauderdale Misison with 153 baptisms for the month of December. How wonderful that 153 of His sons and daughters  have started on the path back to Him!

In his weekly letter President Anderson announced the new standard and shared some of the stories that made it possible…

“WE DID IT!!! I knew being “Above Average Great Missionaries” that we could do this! We accomplished our goal of “150 Baptisms” during the month that we celebrate the Birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. I am so proud of all of you and more importantly, God is so pleased and proud of you and the amazing ambassadors of Christ that you have become.


Back in March when we baptized 100 souls for the first time, I told you that we need to replicate our goal so that the Lord knows that we are for real, that we are not short-term, or “flash in the pan” missionaries, but we are the “genuine” thing; that we are “above average great”. We achieved the goal of over one hundred again 5 times since which told us this is no accident and this is not luck. We actually are on the “next level”.


Now is the time for us to do the same for 150. It is time to replicate it to show the Lord that we have attained a higher level in this Mission, not temporarily, but enduringly.


I love how we are being recognized as Representatives of Christ:


“While harvesting the other day we had knocked a couple doors with no success. As we approached the next house we met John who was cleaning his car out. We introduced ourselves and asked if we could pray with him. He said no. We testified again that we are representatives and how the blessing would help him feel and asked again and he said ‘yeah I would like that but wait let me go put a shirt on.’ We said the blessing with him and invited him to be baptized. He immediately said yes! He asked us if we could come back and say this prayer with his wife on Sunday. We came back and also met his son Bryan. He also immediately accepted baptism and said ‘I know we crossed paths for a reason today and I know that this is what I have been looking for.’ It is so amazing to see how the Lord prepares individuals as well as families to receive the blessings of the gospel.”


They want all the blessings that the Gospel has to offer. We need to be prayerful like Alma as to where to go:


“After the baptism we decided to go and get some harvesting in before the Christmas party. So we hurried over to the spot we had decided on last night during planning. The first door that opened to us was a family of 4 who let us in without much hesitation. We left the blessing and they accepted baptism willingly. Then we testified of the importance of coming to church and they agreed to come. They were so amazing. Then as we were walking out the door I had one last idea. I turned back and said, “Oh hey, just so you know, we’re having a Christmas party in an hour if you wanted to come you’re more than welcome.” Then we left. That night at the party they came! They loved it, made some friends, then agreed to come to church the next day and they came to that too. We found a few minutes to teach them during church so we were able to solidify their dates for the 30th and they were more than willing to accept the date.”


And remember, like Alma, when God has directed us, it many times is the next door or the next person or the next street:


“It really is amazing how it is always the last door. But throughout the hour we were harvesting we hadn’t had much success … and the hour was coming to an end so we decided to knock on one last door. Debra opened the door and let us right in, she started to explain to us that this wasn’t their home and they were there for a couple of weeks … that it has been a really hard, stressful time because Christmas is coming up and her family can’t really have one because they are not in their home and her husband gets his paycheck at the end of the month. So she was very much opened to the blessing and said she knew that Jesus Christ sent us to her home. During the blessing the spirit was very strong and when the prayer was over I asked how she felt, her eyes started to tear up and she said peaceful, calm and good. We testified to her that Jesus Christ did send us to her home and that Jesus loves her very much and that he wants her to feel those feelings always and she can feel of those feelings as she follows his example. Then we invited her to be baptized on the 30th of December and she accepted! She has 5 boys and they are all over 8! I know that Jesus sent us to her because we prayed and asked where to go. We must depend on the lord to show us the way, it is impossible to do this work alone and there is no better work.”

Packages, People and Ornaments…

 The days after Christmas can be hectic around the office but thanks to all the couples chipping in Wednesday and Thursday went smoothly.

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An important package came in for elder Thorne and the most unusual of the season came in for elder Webb. Mary showed off the beautiful Star War ornaments that were hand made by our grandchildren and friends on the office tree.

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I am not sure why Mary was checking her watch when I took this picture – maybe she wondering how long it was before lunch? Elders Thorne, Taylor, Rellaford and Rondo dropped in to pick up elder Thorne’s package and ask elder Bare about a problem with their car. E/S Bare had one of their daughters with them for Christmas. She made the mistake of coming into the office and of course we put her to work – she was happy to help.

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On Thursday elders Free and Smoot came in while on an exchange. Elder Smoot scored some mail that included a Subway gift card…from what I understand from talking to some of the missionaries, they love food gift cards – especially for Subway and Chili’s. There is a tradition where I go out on the morning after Christmas and buy some Hallmark ornaments at 50% off. This year I got Mary three Hallmark and two Shore ornaments…later I could not pass up this Angry Bird ornament…ho, ho, ho.

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Just as the sun was starting to set I went for a walk and took these pictures. About 5 weeks ago they were planting trees and somewhere along the line they cut the power to the lights on the fountain. Tonight they were back on and with a full moon in the background it was too good a picture to pass up.

Christmas 2012 – Fort Lauderdale Mission

 I am going to try to record this Christmas day in pictures. I already realize that I missed one opportunity but hopefully I will get another chance to make it up.

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Our 4′ artificial but festive tree had a few presents under it…most of them were from Mary to me.  One of the presents we received was a set of paper Star War ornaments that were cut out by Bob’s family along with Gentry’s Devan…a lot of work must have gone into them. Mary got me a tripod for my camera so I can be in more pictures. I thought the Merry Christmas bag was a nice added thought.

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Mary made cinnamon rolls so we could have our traditional Christmas cinnamon rolls and hot chocolate – the iPad is becoming traditional. We got a call from Jim’s family so we could share a little of their Christmas. Colin was very busy and we caught this great smile. The sippy cup and a box of tissues seemed to be among his favorite presents. I see we almost got Oliva in the picture.

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Colin is happy to be with daddy and Charlotte drew back just as the picture was snapped. FaceTime and Skype make it much easier to be away from family on Chirstmas. We then went to district meeting with the Ft Lauderdale group. I missed the first two DM of this transfer so I did not want to miss another. In the back is sisters Lake and Bean who add beauty to the district. Continuing along the back row we get elders Taylor, Bloom, Burt, Thorne, Bishop and Rondo. The front row has elder Rellaford, us and elder Smoot.

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I had to publish this crazy picture of the district to record the surprise – or perhaps horror on elder Smoot’s face when I threw my arms around him. Notice how Mary sat gracefully smiling while I made a fool of myself…that is the way it normally is. I think sister bean was posing for a role in a spy movie. When we got home I spent a couple of hours on the computer updating this blog and some other things.  The Evans sent pictures of their deliveries so I posted them below and put in a couple here to show what I was busy doing.

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Nativity globe for Mary while elders Smoot and Bishop, the Fort Lauderdale Zone leaders gave us and each of their missionaries a beautiful ornament with the new temple inside. After fixing a big pot of mashed potatoes (me) and a big bowl of fresh green beans (Mary) we went over to the Sommerfeldts to enjoy a dinner with three other couples and the assistants. Mary, elder Rippstein and elder Evans enjoy talking before dinner.

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Sister Evans helped sister Sommerfeldt getting things ready. The kitchen is so small that more than two people just get in the others way. Elders Shipley, Rippstein and Avila strike a pose – notice the picture on the wall behind them. Elder Shipley borrowed my camera and took this picture of me with Elders Rippstein and Evans.

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The assistants spent lots of time texting. Elder Shipley is showing something funny to elder Avila. Elder Evans gets into the picture taking business. More texting – it just come naturally. Maybe elder Rippstein is texting elder Shipley or visa-versa.

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The Sommerfeldts opened their home to us – I kind of hope elder Sommerfeldt does not see this picture. The Evans are our Family History missionaries who will go home in January. We will miss them greatly. When we got home one of the ducks came up looking for his Christmas dinner. He had to be satisfied with a couple of pieces of bread. The next day I got a note from the apartment asking me to stop feeding the ducks because someone complained…the ducks are going to be very disappointed.

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Later we got to spend some time on FaceTime with most of our children and grandchildren. William found the cookies and later showed off his new present with his sister Kelli almost in the picture. Krista is not going to think this is a very good picture but it the best we got.

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Cindy, Mike and Bob got on for a while. Mike is the only one that looks like he is enjoying the experience.


Mary watched this for the first time all the way through. I watched parts of it when it sounded interesting. The rest of my time was spent  putting things in this blog and catching up my journal.

It was a very nice, if quiet Christmas.

Elder and Sister Evans’ Delivers Packages…

Here are pictures of those that the Evans’ delivered to on Monday…lots of happy missionaries! I know that elder Rockwell’s mother will be especially happy to see her package was delivered.

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Elders Bay and Dean in Miami Lakes South scored. Sisters Kira and Schneider hold their stockings…sister Schneider reflection makes it a threesome. Elder Hunt seems to have all the goods. Maybe he will share with elders Brough, Marsh and Lee.

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Sisters Judkins and  Carnes have a pile of packages delivered…almost as high as their tree. Elders Aul, Rockwood, Fanaika and Johnson all seem to have something to put under the tree. Elders Pingree, Hunter, Chinchilla and Bennett pose for the camera…


Elders Stewart and Gust show their packages.

The smiles of these elders and sisters were more than enough payment for the time the senior couples spent out delivering packages.

A Christmas Past….2009

We have had the privilege of spending a number of our Christmases since 2006 on a mission. I thought I would go back and look at the last one in Richards Bay South Africa. The weather was much like it is today in Florida.  I wish we could have found a way to bring home our unusual tree.

25 December 2009



Our Christmas tree with presents on Christmas morning. Notice my stocking is stuffed but Mary’s is empty – she had a poor excuse for a Santa getting her presents. The elders came over and spent some time with us. We had party poppers for them – it took some practice to get them to give a good pop. Elder Maremela had fun practicing.


Although most of them had been eating at member’s houses all day long, some of them still found room for a little more food. The chocolate cake and ice cream all disappeared. Having the elders visit made our Christmas. They bring with them a special spirit – even when they are relaxed and eating. They are our temporary sons who will not forget. Notice how well dressed elder Weaver is…I think he looked better in his Santa Claus suit!

The Day Before Christmas and All Through the Mission…

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December 24 – 7:30 am and Mary finally found the Christmas window decorations so she could put them up. 8:00 am – we arrive at the office and we are the only vehicle in the parking lot. But that will change!

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8:30 am The mail person called and asked if we were going to be open. She was greatly relieved when we were. About an hour later she showed up with 54 packages. Elder Rippstein carefully put them in zones while keeping an eye out for a package for him. Sometime between 9:30 and 10:00 help arrive in the form of young and slightly older elves…I could not pass up taking this picture of sister Stegelmeier with sister Bare, her daughter who is visiting and elder Sommerfeldt in the back ground. After elder and sister Evans and Mary put labels on all the packages the four sister elves – Herrera, Holyan, Stegelmeier and Johnson, helped elder Evans put them back in zones for delivery.

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We went on our Christmas Package tour at about 11:00 and sometime after noon found us in Belle Glade giving elders Palacios, Edwards, Maki, and Krafton some packages. They invited us in to see their apartment…nice and tidy. Notice the interesting ornaments on the tree. Missionaries are very resourceful. Elder Palacios is probably one of four elders who is shorter than I am, but he has a much better smile.

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We had lunch at Popeyes and then it was up to Okeechobee where elders Bowen and Duncan are being so successful that their chapel will not hold all those who come to the branch on Sunday so they have to put people in other parts of the building.  When I went in to look at the chapel I saw this beautiful Nativity set. Our last stop was in Jupiter where we met elders Shaffer, Toeava, Grant and Doman outside the bowling alley that they thought they were going to have a P-day activiity but found that it was closed. We hope the packages we brought helped make it a better day. Elder Grant truly hit the jackpot for packages – at least those we delivered.

The Evans, Sommerfeldts and Bares also went out delivering to other parts of the mission so that if at all possible the wonderful Fort Lauderdale missionaries had packages to open on Christmas. I asked them to take pictures so I could post them later so their families could see that their sons and daughters got their packages. Of course most of them plan to Skype their families tomorrow – one of the two times during the year that they get to contact them directly.

We arrived back at the office at about 4:30 where I found the mailbox filled with letters and a few more last minute packages. Unfortunately these will mostly be delivered some time during the coming week. But there it will just make the holiday season last a little longer.

A Week of Random Pictures…

 I am famous or perhaps infamous for taking lots of pictures…at least when I think about where I am and what is going on. So these are just some of the pictures I took during the week.

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The assistants are busy doing exchanges with all the elders in the mission. Elder Rippstein dropped into the office with elder Stewart. On Wednesday night we had the opportunity to pick up some young sisters who had been baptized but not yet confirmed and bring them to Fort Lauderdale so they could receive the Holy Ghost. After that Bishop Brown – a scouter all the way – took some time to teach them about what just happened and how the Holy Ghost could work in their lives as long as they kept the commandments. On Thursday we went over to the Rampton’s so Mary could give her piano lesson. I took this beautiful picture of their roses and bougainvillea that are in full bloom.

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On Friday I took this picture of the clear blue sky. What it does not show is that the temperature was only 55 degrees which is about as cold as we have seen in the 14 months we have been here. On Saturday we went over to the temple site to drop off some Books of Mormon only to find it closed. I did get pictures of a coot and a beautiful Blue Heron in the canal in the front of the temple lot.

“Angel” Missionaries Giving the Gift of Christ….

These are the experiences that President Anderson shared in his letter to the missionaries this week…

“Isn’t it wonderful to know as representatives of Christ, especially this time of year, that we are bringing precious souls to Him. Giving these souls the opportunity of Eternal Life is “the most desirable above all things”.


Just as the Angels gave the vision to Nephi and later announced the birth of Christ to the World, we are Angels to those who are looking for Christ:


“We were harvesting because some appointments fell through. We got a few doors slammed in our faces and so on. Then we said a prayer with this lady … She was about to cry, we testified of the Spirit and invited her, she accepted a date and to come to church, and she told us that she received revelation that week saying that two angels would come to her door, and boom here we are!!”


Angels of Christ who have been sent to help them on the right path:


“We Harvested a woman named Janet, who after the prayer, said, ‘You know those Christmas movies that always have angels in them? The ones God sends to change people? I know that you two is my Christmas Angels.’  We invited her to be baptized. She said, ‘The Holy Spirit is here.  He’s been whispering to me that it’s time for a big change for days now – I just didn’t know how it was gon’ come.’  She accepted baptism too.”


Angels who bring the truth to those who may not see with their eyes, but see with their hearts:


“We went harvesting and found a man, Marshall, who is legally blind and practically had the word elect stamped on his forehead… We prayed for him and then asked him who he knew that needed a blessing.  He pointed to his neighbor and then we asked him to accompany us to bless them.  We knocked on his neighbor’s door and when we talked to them, they first tried to shut the door on us.  But then Marshall chimed in and said that we just wanted to pray for them.  They reluctantly let us in and we knelt down to pray.  The spirit entered the room and I was grateful for the blessings that exact obedience brings.  It was awesome.  Marshall is blind, so it was very difficult for him to leave his house.  But he knew the importance of the spirit that the harvest blessing brings, so of course he wanted to share it with his neighbors.  After the prayer, we helped him back to his house and continued to teach.  He came to church yesterday and he’s getting baptized next week.”


Our gift to others is the “Gift of Christ”. As his representatives, we can give this gift to all those elect who are prepared to receive his Angels. Those Angels are you, the elect are those that receive you, and “The Gift of Christ” is the “priceless gift of joy” that Christ can give with His Gospel.”

A couple of other blogs…

I know from comments and phone calls that a number of parents are interested in what is going on in the mission. Here are a couple of other blogs that post letters from their missionaries for others to share. I think you will enjoy reading them. We know Elder Pond very well because we had the opportunity to serve with him here in Fort Lauderdale. As you read his letters home you will catch his enthusiasm for missionary work. We do not know Elder Hoole as well as Elder Pond but we have had a number of chances to talk to him. He is one of our Creole speaking elders. Elder Fullmer is another missionary we do not know well but I find his blog interesting reading.

Monday Mail…Dinner at Japan Inn

 Monday’s mail included over 70 packages and over 70 letters for the missionaries. The packages were checked in and then divided into zones. Senior missionaries who were going out to different parts of the mission took the packages to the zone leaders for distribution. What ever did not get out on Monday was taken out by the Assistants and the seniors on Tuesday. the picture below is the packages that came in for just 4 of the 8 zones on Monday.


Just so you know it is not all work and no play for the senior missionaries, on Monday night we went with E/S Bare to the Japan Inn for dinner. It was a lot of fun and the food was good, but the company was even better. After serving in Indonesia I decided that a senior mission is the best and least expensive working vacation you can take. You get to see and know parts of the world as they really are. You meet, make friends, and love people that you will try to stay in contact with for the rest of your life. Senior missions are truly blessings from a loving Father in Heaven.

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