Thursday, May 2, 2013

May 1, 2013

In our minds, the calendar reflects spring, but in Australia we are experiencing fall weather.   The leaves of some trees are turning from green, to red, orange, and yellow, and they crunch under our feet when we walk through them.  The numerous varieties of Eucalyptus and Evergreens seem to lose needles and leaves all during the year, so they are still green and lush.  The grass that was so dry during the summer is also green, roses are in bloom, and hydrangeas are at their peak.  We have become accustomed to our "summer home" and like the proximity to the Mission Office and a shopping center.(more than one actually)  We walk and run through the many reserves nearby, and so far, neither of us have encountered a snake.  Here's hoping we never see one!  My favorite time of the day is when we leave the office for the evening and walk out to see the Melbourne Temple 50 yards away.  Daily changes in the landscaping and weather enhance the beauty of this House of the Lord. 

We maintain regular contact with our many sons and daughters in the Chinese Branch and participate with them on Sunday, Monday for Family Home Evening, and at baptisms, which occur pretty much every week-end.  We have invited some to our home for dinner and a lesson and love the time we spend with them.  We don't miss our "winter home" in Richmond or having to take pubic transportation or walk where ever we go, but we do miss the city and activity of Melbourne. 

In June we will leave our summer and winter homes, the mission office, our Chinese sons and daughters, the mainland, and the city behind, and move to a vacation home in Tasmania.  We are told it is a beautiful island, and we are excited to get a bit closer to Antartica. We are in the process of down-sizing what little "stuff" we have accumulated before making this move.  We anticipate that this will be the final resting place of our missionary service, but know that the new mission president, President Maxwell, might have other ideas for us.  We feel lucky to have served three missions in one:  our experiences with the Chinese Branch, the Australia Melbourne Mission office, and a South Pacific island.(Indian Ocean)
Work in the office is just that:  WORK.  We are thankful for a variety of additional assignments and the onslaught of missionaries who invade the office from time to time, all of which helps break the monotany of a daily 9 -6:00 routine.   We've helped furnish  flats for the influx of 100 additional missionaries by putting 20 IKEA desks together, made many trips to the airport to transport arriving or departing missionaries, and welcomed the arrival of 10 brand spanking new white Toyota Corollas, which Max gets to adds to his fleet. 

We become frustrated with flight schedules that change daily, visas that are slow being approved and delayed missionaries scheduled to arrive, disobedient missionaries, vandalism to vehicles and flats, all the holidays that Aussies take, and stores and banks that close at 5:00 daily.  But we love seeing the Spirit ignite a fire in investigators, listening to the missionaries teach and bear testimony, watching recent converts accept and magnify callings, and visiting some of the beautiful places in Victoria.  We are fortunate to be serving in a country where freedom is treasured, people are accepting and kind, water is pure, and everything we need is readily available.  We also feel blessed that Medium Max, our oldest grandson has been called to serve as a missionary in the Mexico City South Mission.  We are proud of him and all of our children and grandchildren, and treasure photos, emails, and letters we receive from them and from friends.

One of our favorite P Day activities was golfing 18 holes with Elders Gray and Lacy.  Elder Christensen, dressed in his suit and tie, was our caddy, photographer, and security guard.  The scores weren't very good, though Elder Gray did have some really good shots. 

Cuckaburras are hard to spot, but this one posed for us when we stayed in  Lorne, our first stop on the Great Ocean Road.  Occasionally when we are in the reserves or mountains, we hear one of these unusual birds laugh. 

We, along with the Woffindens, took the big blue van and spent two days exploring the Great Ocean Road.  We took the ferry from Sorrento to Queen's Cliff, then drove on the narrow winding road through small coastal towns, mountains, and along  spectacular cliffs and beaches of the Bass Straight/Southern Ocean/Tasman Sea.  

One of our first stops was a hike to Erskine falls, through a rain forest.  Many of the giant Mountain Ash trees are hollowed out.  
On the Cape Otwah Lighthouse Road, we saw lots of kolalas in their native environment, sleeping in the trees.  Occasionally, one would move, but they are very drowsy marsupials, high on eucalyptus leaves. 
Max was standing on the rock at the beach at the bottom of the Gibson Stairs, and I went to join him.  We were looking at something out in the water and didn't notice a huge wave coming in.  It literally swept me off my feet and rolled me around in the surf.  Max was soaked to his waist, but wasn't swept off the rock.  I had to change in the back of the big blue van in the parking lot.  Unfortunately, my camera met it's demise during this dunking. 
 We could still smile, but were reminded of the power of the ocean waves.
 The famous "Twelve Apostles," magnificent rock stacks that rise up majestically from the Southern Ocean.  Over time, some have eroded away. 

LOCH ARD GORGE:  It is believed that over 700 ships were wrecked along the Victorian Coast, but perhaps the most famous is that of the Loch Ard, an iron-hulled clipper ship that was lost while sailing from England to Melbourne.  Only two people survived.   
At the end of Loch Ard Gorge,  these formations were created by the pounding of the waves. 
Before 1990, these formations were joined together by a bridge, known as London Bridge.  Imagine the terror of two tourists who were stranded when the bridge collapsed.  They were rescued by a helicopter. 
You'll never see this road sign, common in Australia, anyplace in the USA.
The Aussies are trying to remind those of us accustomed to driving on the right side of the road to stay on the left.  Sometimes we still forget.

 Caroline and Linda are two of our favorite Chinese daughters.  Caroline
is always very curious about American food and wants recipes.  She expecially loves spaghetti. 
We joined Kelli and Tyler for Zada's first birthday celebration via Face Time.  Happy Birthday, Zada. 

 Happy Birthday, LianSu.  We used broken candles for the birthday cake, but the effect was the same. 
 Elder Gerber's suit jacket lining was in shreds, so Sister Lacy used duct tape to fix it up.  It should last till he goes home in June. 
 A Samoan mom and baby were at a baptism, and the baby willingly let me hold him for a long time.  He sunggled and snuggled.  The last time I held a baby was the night we left, and I held Zada for a bit.  I have to admit I shed a few tears thinking about all the family we left behind. 
 But, we are blessed to have new family members.  The Wongs invited us to their home for dinner, and it was reminiscent of 4th Sunday dinners, with lots of yummy food and great conversation.  The only thing missing was the chaos!
 Robert and Miriam took us to Nicholas Gardens in the Dandenong Forest.  We hoped to see the fall colors, but were a bit early.
 Nicholas Gardens is a blend of exotic trees including mountain ash, ginkgoes, maples and liquid ambers.  Flowering shrubs, bulbs and trees provide color throughout the year. 

We are thankful to be able to serve in the Australia Melbourne Mission. 

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