Sunday, September 30, 2012

OCTOBER 1, 2012  (just a little more)

It was great to return to our assignment on Friday and be greeted by “our missionaries” with comments of how much they missed us, and one of the Chinese members surprised Sharla with a birthday cake.  They were especially glad to see her, since a couple of the missionaries needed mending done.  The word is getting out that she is handy with a needle and thread.  We finished up the week with a baptism at Fairfield Chapel on Friday night and a train and tram ride home.  The walk to the train station from the chapel, (maybe ½ mile or so) is not well lit, and there were three people coming towards us. They stopped and sort of waited by a tree in the parkway as we approached.  We were sure we were about to be mugged, and Sharla  thought, oh no, this is the end of my I pad.  It turned out to be a missionary companionship and an investigator headed to the chapel for “Friday Night Sports Night, ” and they were going to scare us, which they did a little. We got home just fine.
Saturday evening was “Moon Festival” at the Branch, one of three major Chinese celebrations that occurs each year.  It was a full out feast of sorts, attended by 80 or 90 people or maybe more. We are beginning to learn that the old rule of hot food hot and cold food cold has never been explored by the Chinese. So right now it is sort of all food cold. I guess in the summer, depending on the temperature, it will be all food hot. Oh well, they still know how to have a good time and they are not shy about eating anything you can think of and a few things you would never think of, or eat.
We miss lots of things, especially our family and friends.  Sharla explained to Sister Lifferth, who after being here more than two years is still homesick, that she is homesick, but not miserable.  I’m used to having her cry when she sees a baby in a stroller or pulls up photos on the I Pad to share with someone.  I was thinking this morning as I was getting ready for church that if I were home, I would not have to leave the house one hour before starting time to be there on time; nor would I have to carry a briefcase filled with 50# of food to serve.   Love and kisses and hugs to all of you.  Max and Sharla

October 1, 2012

It is my turn to blog the BlogSpot, and I do not know where to end, let alone where to start. Oh well what else is new.  We participated in a very fun and nice senior missionary retreat this week hosted by our Mission President and his wife.  Tuesday afternoon, the Woffinden’s from Arizona who are serving in the mission office, drove to our flat.  They have been here a couple of weeks longer than we have and had not ventured very far from the square mile of space that surrounds their home and the mission office.  They have use of the mission van, so came to pick us up to take us back to their house, where we would spend a couple of nights.

Since they had not seen any of the city or the Chinese Branch where we meet, been on a tram, or walked the busy Melbourne streets, they parked the van near our flat, and we went in to the city together.  We walked around downtown for a few blocks, went to the Branch and saw a few members, missionaries, and investigators, then had dinner at Madame Kay’s, a Malaysian Restaurant.  The food was so yummy, that we are going back tomorrow to celebrate Sharla and Elder Mao’s birthdays. 

Wednesday we drove about 3 ½ hours through miles of lush, green back country and saw acres of fields of yellow flowers, which we later learned were canola plants, saw kangaroo road kill, and ended up in Echuca, a country town on the Murray River.  We met 5 or 6 other couples and some senior sister missionaries.  We all rode a steam powered paddle boat on the lazy, muddy Murray River, which according to locals is a healthy river when it is muddy, because that means it is active.  We were reminded of lots of fun trips to Lake Powell, as we saw many large house boats docked along the river banks.  We strolled the streets of Echuca, eating ice cream cones and bakery treats, did a bit of window shopping, and enjoyed the beautiful spring day.  We drove to a wild reserve at Kyabrum  and spent a few hours in a very casual setting observing many of the inhabitants of Australia, including koala bears, kangaroos, dingos, wallabies, Tasmanian Devils, emus, wombats, cockatoos, and snakes indigenous to Australia.  Dinner was at a Pizza Hut, and we were glad Elder Woffinden was the driver back to Melbourne. 
Talk about a couple of man - sized "toys."  That chain saw would have helped a lot last December when we had all the trees to cut up.  I think that motorcycle would go way faster than the speed limit here in Australia, which is generally 80 kph on the open road.  Apparently tickets are very costly, and according to missionaries, there is no grace for even 1kph over. 

Thursday we went to the Melbourne Temple, had a BBQ  at President and Sister Lifferth’s home, then visited a couple of sites in the Dandenong Mountains.  Even though they are not mountains as we know them, they are spectacular in terms of the trees and plants. We went to a huge botanical garden that had over 300 varieties of rhododendrons, mostly in full bloom.  Talk about spectacular colors and beauty! We loved it.  After a light supper of soup, we had a meeting where testimonies and experiences were shared.  Elder Woffinden took us to our tram stop, and we were home before 10:30.

Monday, September 24, 2012

SEPTEMBER 25, 2012

Spring is certainly coming to Melbourne, as evidenced by blossoms popping, the smell of freshly mowed grass, trees leafing out, and the appearance of more ants in our flat.  We are quite comfortable sharing our accommodations with them, but draw the line when they choose to climb on our table.  Then we squish them with our finger, brush them on the floor, and continue eating. 

The saga of the electricity in our flat continues, as one of the 60 watt bulbs burned out, and we can’t get another to work in its place.  We had a very nice old electrician come a couple of weeks ago, but instead of replacing the fixtures, he messed with some wires and managed to get them working for a short time.  Now we have a total of 40 watts lighting our living room.  It gives us a good excuse to not study much.

We think we are finally getting a clearer picture of what our role is here.  We were called to a “member/leader support” mission, and that is what we are doing.  We make lots of food, wash lots of dishes, mop the kitchen floor, empty the garbage, vacuum the carpets, and assist the missionaries and members in any way they ask.  I’ve done some clothing repair for the missionaries, and it seem as the word spreads that I can work a needle, more of them bring pants to be hemmed and seams to be repaired.  They in turn love to help us with any computer/Ipad issue we might have, help us eat leftovers and treats, give us rides places if they have a car, tell us where the good places to eat out are, ask us to help with teaching, and are very solicitous and kind.  Their energy, and enthusiasm is contagious and they are certainly forces for good.

We attended the Melbourne temple last week with the missionaries in our zone, and that was a good experience.  Gone are the days when we can leave home, do a temple session, and be home again in two hours.  We left on the tram before 7:00 am, returning home at 1:30 pm.  Pretty much all we did was a temple session, and walk, ride, or wait for a tram or bus.  I love seeing the countryside, looking at all the shops along the streets, and following where we are on the IPad.  Have I said before how thankful I am to have an IPad.  And, I have an IPad tutor, a kid from Thailand I think, who keeps me up to date and always has something new to show me.  He likes to hang around with the senior couples, and since we are the only couple here, he has become our shadow.  Last Saturday we decided to ditch the Branch for a while and go to the Royal Melbourne Botanical Gardens.  Johnny decided he wanted to come, so he was our guide until he had to leave to catch a plane to go home for a couple of weeks.  The gardens were huge, and consisted of plants brought in from all over the world.  It was fun to see families having picnics, kids running around, ducks in the ponds, and lots of beautiful flowers.  We liked seeing a black swan taking her 5 little babies to the pond for a swim.   Unlike botanical gardens most places, it was free, so I'm sure we'll return there often.

Life is good, and we are looking forward to a senior couples retreat this week.  The missionaries kind of look at us funny when we tell them we won’t be around for a couple of days, since they never get a day off.  Even PDay has lots of string attached, for them as well as for us, as we come back to the Branch for Family Home Evening.  This week I taught them "Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree" and the missionaries liked teaching the actions.  They laughed and giggled and had a great time singing and playing Fruit Basket, even though in all the excitement of trying to find a chair, the new missionary twisted his ankle pretty badly.  Guess we'll have to come up with games that are a bit more tame. 

Saturday is Australia's equivalent  to the Super Bowl.  It's fun to ride the tram and talk to some of the Aussies and get their perspectives.   It seems like a really big deal, and there will be lots of beer consumed, I'm sure. There are lots of liquor stores in our neighborhood; in fact one takes up pretty much the entire block.   We live close to the stadium where the game will be played but won't be attending the game.  Hopefully we'll take in some of the Australian Open in February.  

I've pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I'll never get over being homesick and missing home, friends and family.  This morning we were walking to the grocery store, and a baby in a stroller was crying.  I started to tear up thinking about Zada and Jack.  Max just tolerates my unstable emotions, and I’m sure shakes his head in unbelief.  Such is life.  We spent $190 and "topped off" all our prepaid phone, internet, and 3G data, for the next six months or so, so I guess that means I need to stop looking for plane fares back home.  However, we sure hope to have some visitors.  Love to you all,  Sharla

Sunday, September 16, 2012

September 16, 2012

It is hard to know where to start or when to finish since everything we do seems like a blur most of the time. We come home (interesting how someplace like this can be called home and how it feels ok) at night, and we are tired, and we have a race see who can get out of our “Missionary Clothes” the fastest. After we are comfortable, we start trying to make some sense out of the day and make some notes about the people we met and who were taught.  It is still very difficult to differentiate them as individuals, other than male and female, and once in a while we even miss on that one. To remember names and to associate names with faces is still an almost insurmountable task; one that we are making some headway, but much slower than we like.

Something that we are having zero problems with is loving these amazing people and learning to laugh with them and enjoy their incessant chatter… at least some of the time. There are so many examples of these new members and investigators accepting with their whole hearts the doctrines of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and committing to changing their lives to comply with that doctrine. Many of them have very little experience with “Christianity” as the world knows it and no knowledge at all of the Apostasy and Restoration.

I cannot speak for Sharla about whether or not this is getting any easier.  I know she has her spells of homesickness, and perhaps it will strike me at some later date. We are both trying hard to get used to a rigorous schedule and get enough down time to rest and regenerate. We sort of thought that we would get a day or two off each week, and with this assignment that is not the case.  We have responsibilities at the Branch and with the missionaries every day of the week; some of those days being 10 or 12 hours.

 I am doing better with all of the walking, and at least one of the pairs of shoes I brought are starting to feel a bit more comfortable.  We have taken a couple pair of my slacks to have taken in because “Sister Fillmore” would not let me wear them looking so baggy.  Either all the walking is paying off, or Mr. Mac did a poor job of fitting my pants properly. I haven’t been cold hardly at all, and I haven’t worn my coat once, but I wear pants rather than nylons and a skirt.   Sharla is glad for the warm stuff she brought.

We are also enjoying the Elders and admire their hard work, the knowledge they have, and what amazing “teachers” they are. We like having them for dinner; a couple of them just left, and they did not disappoint. (By that I mean that all of the companionships have consumed enormous amounts of food.)  I even had one elder a couple of weeks ago eat two huge omelets with all of the trimmings.

We are anxious to see what this week brings our way and we hope that whatever it brings your way will help you to be of good cheer.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

September 9, 2012

It is Sunday afternoon; probably most of you are sleeping soundly, anticipating the Sabbath.  Church this morning was pretty good.  I especially liked having one of my favorite and not often sung hymns, "He is Risen," sung as the rest hymn.  I know I am confused, but I'm wondering if in Australia Easter comes in September, which is early spring, here.  Blossoms outside our flat are in bloom, and when the wind  blows in the right direction, their fragrance is very sweet.  The wind gusts pretty much non-stop, and there are areas in downtown Melbourne that we are convinced are wind tunnels.

Highlights of last couple of weeks include getting our IKEA furniture put together by Elders Rigby and Lynguen , yet another trip to Office Works to purchase a small file cabinet, and an outing with  Robert, Miriam, and Paul (people Max converted many years ago) to the Dandenong Mountains to see the Cockatoos and to visit the William Ricketts Sanctuary. 

They swarmed us for food and only drew blood a couple of times

Statues were cast in clay, fired, then attached to rocks. Figures appear to be growing out of the rocks.  This work was done in the 1960's and there are dozens of statues, mostly Aboriginal in nature.

We are blessed to work with wonderful missionaries, who carry their Sunday meal to the Branch in their backpacks.  (note the frozen chicken breast and salad.)

Elder Staples and Elder Kirklin
Baptism of 3 Vietnamese
Family Home Evening Activity at the Branch
The missionaries are teaching many Chinese and Vietnamese people, and we are thankful to report baptisms and great conversion stories.  One man named Chris, who has two masters degrees in engineering, committed to baptism after just one lesson.  The field is certainly ripe, ready for the harvest, and we are thankful to be able to contribute in very small ways.  Mostly we smile, talk with the members and investigators to the extent they understand English, make food for almost daily activities in the Branch, and occasionally assist in teaching.   

Our Kitchen is Very Small 
We were able to rent the trolly for $50 to help us bring the file cabinet 3 blocks back to the Branch.  No one seemed to give us a second glance. 
Our flat is small, and getting the things we need sometimes can be a bit of a challenge, but we manage public transportation pretty well, and we walk a lot.  Sometimes the Zone Leaders give us a ride.
Flinders Station
Melbourne Central
There are many historic sites in Melbourne, and the architecture is a great mix of old and new. 
Depending on the day, we are adjusting to missionary work and the new culture into which we've been immersed.  We do know our Heavenly Father loves us and each or you, and that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer.  We are thankful to feel safe and that we have the physical, financial, spiritual, and generally the emotional strength to serve here. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

September 2, 2012


1.      You have a total of four light switches.
2.      There are four doors, one of which is a sliding door and one is the closet door.
3.      There are 15 total knobs/handles in the entire flat, plus of course, two door knobs.
4.      From your kitchen chair you can access all of the cabinet drawers (4) the microwave, the refrigerator, and all of the lower cabinets (3.)
5.      Sitting on the throne, you can do your business, as well as operate the washing machine, spit in the sink from brushing your teeth, and sort the clothes from the clothes hamper/bag if you like.
6.      You improve leg flexibility, as you train yourself to swing your leg around the corner bed post that you must pass to get to the bathroom or the living room;  otherwise you CLUNK your leg every time you pass and it hurts. (Missionaries are not supposed to swear.)
7.      Physical dexterity and balance is also improved, because on the far side of the bed, there is about a 6 “ space between the bed and the wall.  You quickly learn to get out of bed in the middle of the night very carefully, otherwise you might hit your head or your foot on the cement or plaster wall.  You also have to maneuver around the radiator heater and big old fan that are in the egress.  You might think, why don’t you move them?  Reason being, there is no place to move them.
8.      There are a total of four wood windows in the entire flat, all of which have peeling (probably lead) paint, have dirty moldy screens, and which may or may not open in case of an emergency, but which help maintain a consistent humidity level in the flat.  It probably would be very easy to break out if necessary.
9.      You have 4 dinner plates, which is plenty, since there are only two kitchen chairs.  When 2 guests come, a small desk chair is available, and one person stands at the end by the refrigerator, facilitating easy access to food that is kept there during the meal, because the table is so small.
10.   Energy is saved, because the TV doesn’t pick up any stations, so doesn’t get turned on.
11.   A car vacuum is adequate to vacuum the whole place.
12.   Two of the four light fixtures accommodate two bulbs each, but only work at 50%, saving additional electricity.  
13.   Six small pictures, framed in $2.99 IKEA frames, and two pillows is all the interior decorating needed.
14.   There are two sinks, a single small one in the kitchen, and one in the bathroom that could easily be mistaken for a urinal trough.
15.   An element of luxury is 16 electrical outlets, three 4 banger power strips, and one lengthy power strip with a cord that reaches anywhere in the flat.
16.   Nine foot ceilings provides for an open and spacious feeling.
17.   An electric wall heater, two transportable radiator type heaters, and a small space heater help maintain a comfortable climate, and double as the clothes dryer.