Dear family and friends:
The old folks are often heard to say, time goes by too quickly. I can’t believe it’s been almost a year since we updated our blog. Yikes! Where does the time go? Wait, the old folks say that too? I guess I’m one of them now. I certainly feel it in my bones. :)
There is too much to cover in one sitting but I’ll try to give you a synopsis of events. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 175 missionaries have completed their missions and have gone home since we’ve been here, while an equal number of missionaries have replaced the outgoing missionaries assigned to the Virginia, Richmond mission.
Earth wind and Fire:
This past year has been remarkable in many ways. We experienced many natural disasters beginning with a large number of tornadoes during the month of April. Virginia and North Carolina were hard hit and many lives were impacted.
August brought a rare earthquake to Virginia. The epicenter was in Mineral Springs, Virginia, not too far from here. The west coast had fun poking us over the size of the small (5.6) quake but the damage was real and the surprise was how quickly the phone systems failed with a heavy overload on the system. Sara and I were in a zone conference with about 45 missionaries when it hit. I was in the middle of a passionate sermon when it hit. One wise cracking elder stated, “President Perry, I have never been so moved with your words as I have been today”.
Hurricane Irene came in on the heals of the earthquake. We had more time to prepare but it wasn’t free of trials and tribulation. We evacuated 85 missionaries from the Outer Banks of North Carolina and the tidewater areas of Virginia and brought them into the greater Richmond area for their safety. The damage was primarily a loss of power and downed trees everywhere. Some missionaries were without power for two weeks. We spent two weeks in clean up mode which brought plenty of service projects our way. The church provided generators to small clinics and some elderly people who are dependant on electricity to power oxygen tanks etc. Additionally, food, water and chain saws were provided to assist in the clean up.
Ok, you may ask, “what about fire? You mentioned fire”. In Suffolk, Virginia (borders North Carolina) 6,300 acres of the (not making this up) Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, has been burning for months. Many had hoped hurricane Irene would finally put it out, but alas, it’s still burning and the smoke and haze has been problematic for many with respiratory issues.
The good news for the mission is we are now a welled oiled machine when it comes to emergency preparedness! The funny part of this is that several missionaries upon their arrival in the mission field, shared feelings of disappointment when reading their assignment to Virginia and expressed a desire for a high adventure mission. They will have many tales to tell their grandchildren and I’m confident the stories will get better with time…
Mission life brings daily miracles that are often accompanied by the associated challenges. We are privileged to work with 200 young men, women and senior missionaries that have consecrated their time to the service of the Savior and their fellow man. This kind of sacrifice brings great spiritual and emotional growth into the lives of the young missionaries whose contemporaries are generally focused inward at this age; this contrast is significant. Sacrifice increases a missionary’s capacity to love their fellow man. The principle is you learn to love whom you serve.
We have enjoyed many visa waiters in addition to our compliment of missionaries. These are assigned temporarily to our mission while they wait for their visas to come through. Most of them are assigned to serve in Brazil.
I have now had many assistants come and go, including Elders Fraga, Doxey, Fairclough, and Rickson (who is serving out his last 6 weeks helping a lucky missionary). Elders Cook and Wheelock are currently serving in this capacity and doing an excellent job.
On a personal note Sara and I spent a few days with our children (except for Joseph who is serving an LDS mission in Norway) and grandchildren touring Washington DC this past summer. It was very fun.
Sara and I attended a mission president’s seminar in Palmyra, New York a couple of weeks ago. What a treat to be in the cradle of the restoration for instruction and reflection. The drive up was beautiful. We drove up through Maryland and Pennsylvania into upstate NY. We took some time and visited historic Gettysburg along the way.
Our children are faring well. Richard is working at Target and plans to attend VCU in the winter. He continues to take martial arts classes and plans on staying here after we leave. Eliza is still singing with her school choir and travels a bit. She has her drivers permit and is driving. Emma is still making and decorating cakes and has been listening to Christmas music since the middle of October. Both girls are taking piano lessons and continue as well, with their martial arts classes. Joseph loves his mission and the people of Norway and sends lots of pictures of beautiful fjords and rolling green hills. Christena, Tyler and their four children are busy with work, school, and church. Tyler did hit a milestone this past month when he turned “40”. Esther is getting ready to begin her internship working towards her master’s degree in clinical psychology and is burning the candle at both ends with work, school and teaching an institute of religion class. Courtney is working hard to finish up her Visual Arts major and teaching certificate. She is determined to teach in inner city schools and has her eye on Washington D.C.
Virginia is calm and beautiful again with the cool air of fall and the brilliant change of colors that is occurring from the Shenandoah mountain ranges to the beaches in Nags Head. One must make a point of visiting Virginia in the spring or fall, it’s truly breathtaking.
We feel very blessed and privileged to be involved in a work that brings hope to others in an increasingly cynical world. We are blessed to have the opportunity to shepherd so many impressive missionaries. I continue to marvel at the genius of imperfect people helping other imperfect people come closer to Christ, knowing both will be edified in the process. Discipleship may begin with a single event but requires an understanding that the process is a life long journey.
We send our love to each of you and are thankful for your love and prayers.