Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Back in the Saddle Again!

by Debi

Greg and I were set apart last night as missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in the Africa West Area.

Greg has been set apart as a missionary but that was 40 years ago.  This is my first time.  I was a little nervous because I wasn’t sure how I would feel as a missionary.  As our wonderful Stake President, Matt Malone, laid his hands on my head I could feel the spirit so strong.

He gave beautiful blessings to both of us and promised us that we would have the health and strength to fulfill our duties.  He blessed me with comfort and peace and that I would be able to live in a new land.  He blessed our family through us that they would be safe and would receive blessings because of our service. 

One blessing that really stood out in my mind was that Greg and I would become closer and love each other more than we ever have before.  We already love each other very much.  It will be interesting and wonderful to see this blessing come about. 

After we came home from the meeting, Greg and I got out our journals and wrote down what we could remember from our blessings.  In the little journal it has a place to write down all of your companions that you have during your mission. On the first line I wrote Greg W. Haws, and then in the place where the date is recorded I just put in “For Eternity”.

As we lay in bed and talked about us being missionaries I asked Greg to help me recite the 4th section of the Doctrine and Covenants.  After we practiced a few times, Greg said that his brain was shifting into missionary mode. Just like magic, he started quoting all of the scriptures he memorized during his first mission. Greg feels like he is back in the saddle again. 

We leave in 5 days.  We still have a few things to do but we are ready and anxious to go and start serving the beautiful people of Africa. The next blog entry will be from the mission field.

Thank you for all of your support and prayers.

Yes, we are back in the saddle again!

Too Much Mother?

By Greg

One year ago today, my dear mother, Alice Marie Widdison Haws Beecher (wow that is a long name) passed away.  As I listed my pre-mission concerns, she was near the top of that list.  She would not have been comfortable with me leaving her.  When she died, I was teaching at BYU and had an apartment in Provo.  She did not like me going to Provo.  She wanted me to be there when she died.  In the end, I was not there, but before I left her for the last time, I kissed her and told her that I was glad she was my mother and that I loved her and that I was sorry that I had to go.  She had every opportunity to die on that Sunday, but she hung on until Tuesday, which was the second day of the Fall semester.

In 2008 I wrote the following.  I think it sums up how I feel about my mother.

It is interesting that when she met our dad, she had a mission call.  Before Dad asked her to marry him, they went and visited with Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, who was an apostle and also a brother to our dad's mission president.  He told them to get married and have sons and send them on missions.  They did.  I am the first to go a second time.  I hope Mom and Dad know about this and that they are proud of what we are doing.  I hope they are proud of all of us.

Greg and Marie
"Too Much Mother"
By Greg W. Haws
April 6, 2008

Greg, Marie Ken, Barrett
Last night Judi told us of a television program that she had seen where a young mother explained her reasons for placing her three-month old baby in day care.  The woman had said simply, “I think my baby was getting too much mommy.”  We were all shocked.  We all wondered if a baby, especially one of this age, really needs a break from its mother, and perhaps she was admitting that she needs a break from the baby, but it made me think, can a child have too much mother?

When my children were babies we would often have them in bed with us as they were awake and needed attention or feeding.  At these precious moments, we would look into their eyes and love them.  We were filled with wonder.  Their mother spent countless hours doing this very thing, just looking into their eyes and being filled with wonder.  I remember asking Debi if she thought my parents, and particularly my mother did that with me.  Her reaction was quick and pointed, “Of course she did.  What are you thinking?”

Well, I don’t remember being a three-month old and just beginning to look around at the world that I had been thrust into.  Yet, I am sure Debi is right.  It was my mother’s eyes that first caught mine.  I am certain that it was her smile that made me smile.  It was her arms that held me and her hands that served me.

On vacation, Alan, Marie, Wayne, Ken and Greg

"Missionary" Greg and Marie
  As I watch my daughters handle their little ones, I am grateful for their willingness to spend a major portion of their lives in simple things like looking into the eyes of their babies and smiling at them.  This is the most important work a person can do, yet it is so simple.  Mothers for generations untold all across the world have done this, and their babies have smiled back, some even displayed dimples in their checks as they learned to control their gaze and adjust the focus of their eyes, regardless of whether those eyes were blue, brown, gray, green or black.

I am now a man of significant age.  I am no longer a young man, or even a middle aged man.  I don’t know if I am a young old man yet, but I have lived these 56 years (now 60) with a few constants in my life.  One of them has been that for nearly all of these years I have had the privilege of looking into my mother’s eyes.  I am sorry that I have not always used the dimples that God gave me and smiled back.

Greg, Ken, Marie, Alan, Wayne
Sometimes my mother has been close to me, sometimes she has been in the audience as I have been on the stand, sometimes she has been in her home and I have been in mine, but still, I could look into her eyes.  I wonder what she has been thinking all of this time as she looked into mine.

My mother used a very effective technique when I was a boy.  If she had concern about the truthfulness of my story, she would say, “Greg, you look me in the eyes and tell me that that is the truth.”  That always worked.  Sometimes the story was modified, but in the end it was the truth.

What if every man in the world had his mother next to him in his most important actions?  What if she was saying to the politician, the business executive, the investor and the promoter, the celebrity or the professional athlete, “Look me in the eye and tell me the truth?”  Wouldn’t the world be a much better place?

Really, can we really have too much mother?  As we look at the challenges of our society, isn’t it obvious that we need more mother?  Wouldn’t we smile more if we spent more quiet time in the arms of our mothers gazing into their smiling faces?  Wouldn’t wars and conflicts end if mothers could control their sons with their eyes?  Wouldn’t men treat their wives and children with greater respect if they knew they had to look into the eyes of their mothers and tell the truth?

I am so grateful for my mother.  I know what color her eyes are, and I would recognize them anywhere.  While I recognize that someday they will close for a season, still, the eyes of my mother will live on in my life.  I could never have too much mother.

(Her eyes closed on August 29, 2011).

God bless our dear Mother!

Thursday, August 23, 2012


by Debi

Greg and I have had our mission call now for four months.  Every where we go the subject of our mission comes up.  When we tell people that we are going to Africa on a mission for our church they get very excited.  The first words that come out of everyone’s mouth are “YOU ARE GOING TO LOVE IT!”

After a few minutes of discussion, I find out that they have never been to Africa and they have never served a two year mission as a senior couple.  It is usually an aunt that went to Africa or a business associate or sometimes even someone in their ward. 

Now I love a positive mental attitude but this is almost ridicules.  Greg and I decided that the Church has sworn everyone to secrecy that has served in Africa.  When a missionary is about to go home they probably make a pledge not to tell of all of the problems because no one would ever go there again. 

This is a typical scene from a market place in Ghana

This is the question that I have been asking myself the last few months, “How can I love a place when everyone I love is not there?”  Now, that is the real question.  I will go and I will serve but my heart is breaking right now.  Every time I see one of my grandkids and give them a hug my mind goes to that very question.  How can I leave?  How can I keep my heart from breaking? 

The only solution that I can find is to fall in love with the people that I am going to serve.  I need to get up to my elbows in service.  When you serve someone you learn to love them.  I am praying every day that I will have the pure love of Christ for everyone I meet.  I need to look into those beautiful African children’s faces and give them all the love I have for my grandchildren.  In other words, I need to lose myself in the service of my brothers and sisters of Africa.

School lunch for the children - doesn't it look yummy!

Then after two years I am sure that I will say, “Oh, you are going to Africa?  YOU ARE GOING TO LOVE IT!”

Monday, August 20, 2012

Time flys when you are having fun-I am 60!

by Greg

I lost the Tomato Days baby contest???
Today I turned 60 years old.  Rindi said 60 is the new 40.  Well, I remember being 40 and I am not like that today. 

When I was born, my mother's first comments were "he's not as cute as Margaret's baby"  (My aunt had given birth two days earlier).

I think I was pretty cute.  I looked like a 10 month old when I was born.

Dan Aykroyd, Pierce Bronson, Robin Williams and Bob Costas were born about the same time as I was. 

I was born on a Wednesday.

Singin' in the Rain was playing at the Orpheum.

Evita Peron died and her funeral was being held in Argentina.

The average new home cost $ 9,075 while the average income was $3,850 per year.  Gasoline was 20 cents per gallon!

Harry Truman was President of the United States and Albert Schweitzer won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Colleen Hutchins of Salt Lake City, Utah was Miss America.

It was an election year.  Dwight D. Eisenhower, a Republican, was elected President.

The Church had 1,189,053 members in 202 stakes and 1,767 wards and branches.  There were 43 missions and about 2,000 missionaries. There were 8 Temples.  David O McKay was President of the Church.

Greg and Kenny-BUDDY'S

By the time I turned 10, a lot had happened.  Kenny and I almost died in the back of the truck and I started wearing red bows in my hair to match my stocking cap and jacket (it is Grandma's Christmas decoration on her lamp post).

It was 1962.

Life was good.  I had a horse, brothers and cousins, nearly enough to eat, and other than that we were in the midst of the Cold War, and we thought we were going to get destroyed any minute by Atom Bombs, but we were happy.

1236 N. Monroe Street, Tallahassee, Florida
In 1972, when I turned 20, I was a missionary in Florida.  I was half way through with my mission.  I loved being a missionary.
 A lot had happened since 1962.  We had not been destroyed in a nuclear war, I graduated from high school and I had fallen deeply in love with Debi Fowler and her dad's Burger Bar.

I originally combed my hair right down the middle, but by the time I was 20, I was combing it "like a man" as my dad would say. I was smiling because life was good and I had a very bright future, though I had no idea what it would involve.

I also had a theater career, I played Bill Sykes in the play "Oliver"

By 1982, when I was 30, I was deep into life.  I was married with a bunch of wonderful children, a nice home and a lot of responsibility.

I had one thing going for me, however, I had a lot of hair.

I was a partner in my CPA firm, on the High Council (soon to be called to be the Bishop of our Ward) and involved in lots of things.  I was coaching the kids in sports and Debi and I took our first trip to Hawaii.

When I turned 40 in 1992, I was at Weber County serving as the Auditor-Clerk-Treasurer. We were all growing up.  Our family was complete and JB was preparing to leave on his mission.  We were contemplating building the Burger Bar of Layton and I was also in the Real Estate business.

Turning 50, in 2001 was a major step.  I was a grandpa and moving on.
I earned a Masters degree last year
So, here I am today, at 60 and I am still not as cute as Margaret's baby. In 2 weeks, Debi and I will be on our way to Africa to serve for 2 years as missionaries. I wonder what the next 10 years will bring.


By Greg
Barrett's "killer" truck
The following appeared as an article in the Ensign in January of 2012 and described an experience that I had in October of 1962with my brother Kenny (they edited it slightly). 

*  *  *  *  * 
            I was in trouble, but I did not know it. 

Kenny and Greg on Diamond and Pint

Snuggled in our sleeping bags and lying on a mattress, my brother and I were in the back of our pick-up truck prepared for an exciting outing with our father.  He was driving the truck with his two friends, Norman and Fred.  The aluminum camper shell did not provide any heat, but it was a covering over us. We were young, ages 10 and 12, and our bodies were strong.  We talked excitedly about our upcoming adventure.
The enemy was the truck. A flaw in design terminated the exhaust pipe at the back of the cab instead of taking it all the way to the end of the bed.  As we drove in the darkness of the early morning, the toxic carbon-monoxide filtered up through the bed into our space and engulfed us, eventually filling our young lungs.  Dad drove the truck higher and higher into the mountains while we became lethargic, then asleep, then unconscious, and finally breathless.
For some unknown reason, our father pulled over and decided to check on his boys.  When he opened the back of the truck, his worst fears were realized, we were unresponsive and not breathing. 
He pulled me out first and felt a faint heartbeat.  Immediately he gave me aid.  He pinched my nose and then did for me what I could not do for myself, his breath became mine.  The other men did the same for my brother.
I felt like I was in a deep dark pit, and I could not get out of it myself.  In fact, I did not want to climb out, it was easier to stay where I was, but my father would not allow it.  He revived me, and then shifted his attention to my brother.  Back and forth he went as we drifted in and out of consciousness.
Eventually we were breathing on our own, at least enough to be transported to a hospital where we received additional treatment.

Barrett, 48  Greg, 12

As I grew, many times my father was prompted to pull over and check on me.  I was never in as serious danger physically, but several times I was emotionally or spiritually in crisis.  He extended his hand to lift me out of those pits as well.  Again he breathed into me the breath of life.  A few times I did not want to climb out, it was easier to stay where I was, but my father would not allow it.
Many years later, I stood at his bedside, holding his hand as his grip relaxed and the breath of life left his body.  I stood in gratitude that he had been prompted, had heard those promptings and had acted upon them rescuing me and my brothers from enemies seen and unseen.

Monday, August 13, 2012


By Greg

When I was a missionary in Florida in the early 1970s, I wrote a story that has had a life of its own. I titled my story Find Me.  It told of two boys who were friends in the pre-existence.  One came to earth as a member of the Church and the other didn’t. 

Before they left the presence of the Father, the second boy asked the first boy to find him and bring the gospel to him.  In the story I was the first boy and I told of finding Paul, the second boy, and fulfilling my promise.  I may have been taking a certain amount of license in writing this story, but this idea resonated with missionaries around the world as my story became famous as it was transmitted on the so called missionary grapevine.

            I have always felt that the charge Jesus gave to his apostles to “Go ye into all the world, and preach my gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15) applied to us today, and to me particularly.  I also have accepted the Doctrine and Covenants invitation (section 4, verse 4) which states, “For behold the field is white already to harvest; and lo, he that thurstedth in his sickle with his might, the same layeth up in store that he perisheth not, but bringeth salvation to his soul.”  Thus, it is incumbent upon the Elders and Sisters in this dispensation to find those who are seeking the gospel.

            Perhaps there is another side to this challenge.  What of those who are seeking to find the truth?  What is their responsibility?  What is their scriptural charge? 

I am reminded of the parable of the pearl of great price that is recorded in the book of Matthew.  Here, Jesus told of a merchant man who was seeking goodly pearls.  Apparently he found one “pearl of great price, and went and sold all that he had, and bought it.” (Matthew 13:45-46).  Jesus said that the Kingdom of Heaven is like this merchant man.  How is that?  How is the Kingdom like this man? 

            Jesus taught in parables so those who would hear might hear, and those who would see, might see.  Those who did not want to hear or see would not be held responsible for their blindness or deafness.  The point is that the merchant man was seeking.  After seeking, and we are not told how long he had been seeking, but when he found what he was seeking, he was willing to give all he had to obtain it.  Jesus said that the Kingdom of Heaven is like that.

            In that same chapter of Matthew are several other great parables.  All of them compare the Kingdom of Heaven to the object of the parable.  Jesus was trying to teach something very important.  He said it was like “unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field” (Matthew 13:44).  Again, it is important to focus on the fact that the man was searching for the treasure, and when he found it, he acted, selling all that he had to obtain it.

            In the great vision that was shown to Lehi, and later to Nephi, Lehi reported that he “saw numberless concourses of people, many of whom were pressing forward, that they might obtain the path which led unto the tree by which I stood” (1 Nephi 8:21).  It is of note that these people were trying to get on the path, not yet pressing forward on the path.  Once they got on the path they encountered the mist of darkness and were dependant on the rod of iron for safety. 

The first message is that there are “numberless concourses of people” trying to get on the path.

            I have always been struck by the common theme expressed by new converts.  Almost universally they say that they have been looking for this gospel all of their lives.  Many tell of their individual searches that truly resemble the parables of Jesus.  They were seeking and searching for the treasure.  Most had to make significant sacrifices once they found the treasure in order to obtain it.

            Section 123 of the Doctrine and Covenants was written in March of 1839 from the Liberty Jail following a bitter winter.  The Prophet Joseph gave instructions to the scattered church regarding seeking reparations for their sufferings and losses.  He concludes that there is a “duty that we owe to all the rising generation, and to all the pure in heart” (D&C 123:11).  Of course that duty is to carry the gospel to them, the pure in heart, and to the entire world. 

            The Apostle Paul told the Romans that all who “call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.  How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed?  And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent?” (Romans 10:14-15).   Thus, the imperative is in place to us to both send and to preach.

            But the Prophet Joseph said, “For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it” (D&C 123:12).

            I am struck by the phrase in Doctrine and Covenants section 132 wherein the Lord states, and this is in reference to the New and Everlasting Covenant and exaltation in his Kingdom, he says, “For strait is the gate, and narrow is the way that leadeth unto the exaltation and continuation of the lives, and few there be that find it” (D&C 132:22 emphasis added). 

This adds to the scriptural charge to find them, the challenge for them to find it.  Still, why is it that so many in this world are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it?  Does that seem fair?  Why are some born into the truth, or why are some able to find it early in their lives?  And yet it seems that others must search their entire lives to find the truth?

            We recently listened to a presentation by Apostle Jeffery R. Holland where he said that in some parts of Africa, right now, you can stand on a street corner and say that you want to talk to them about religious truths and you will immediately have 200 people stop and listen to you.  That seems fantastic to us.  These people are truly “pressing forward, that they might obtain the path which (leads) unto the tree.”

            It is my hope and desire that we can help them get on the path, hold to the iron rod, and eventually get to the place where they can partake of the fruit of the tree of life, which fruit is described as “being most desirable, above all other fruit.”

            This is why I am going on a mission.


By Greg

I went to Roy High and graduated in 1970.  At that time, the school was experimenting with a new form of delivering the high school curriculum, and it did not go so well for most of us.  One of the subjects that I completely lost was geography. 

 My mother was a first grade teacher and she always had at least one world globe hanging around.  Later she bought a huge explorer globe that had a light in the middle, it was really cool.  So, you might say, I was “home-schooled” in geography.  Add to that a good set of World Book encyclopedias and we were set.

Even though I have had maps taped to my walls, and I own several large atlases and I too have always had a globe at hand, I felt the need to grab a map and see exactly what they meant when they called us to serve in the Africa West Area with its headquarters in Accra, Ghana.

If you could undo the tectonic plate movements that have occurred over that last millions of years, South America and Africa would be joined back together and Ghana would be just north of Venezuela or Northern Brazil.  I don’t think that will happen soon, however.

Tema, Ghana, which is just east of the capital city of Accra, is just 100 miles north of the Equator and is almost right on the prime meridian.  Thus its address is 0’ latitude and 0’ longitude.

Africa is a huge continent.

I am having trouble with the time change thing.  This just comes natural to Debi.  I think she lives such a fast life that she lives in several time zones right now. It also has to do with the fact that she did the Burger Bar payroll for so long that she just knows that if you start your shift at 10 am you get off at 5 pm.   I do it differently. I think we are 7 hours different.  So I add 7 to 10 and take away 12 and thus if it is 10 O’clock here it is must be 5 O’clock there. 

After a long and animated conversation about this (because 5 and 10 are only 5 hours different!) we agreed on two things: we would never go the other way and bring the International Date Line into our conversations and I could buy two clocks and have them side by side, one Hooper, one Ghana.    

The Church has divided Africa into two areas, with those countries north of the Sahara desert assigned to the Mediterranean, or Middle-east area.  The two areas are Africa Southeast and Africa West.  Africa Southeast has all of the countries from South Africa north and east including Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Botswana, the Congo, Madagascar, Kenya, and Somalia.

The Africa West Area includes 17 countries and over 300 million people.  It covers a large area, about the same size as the continental United States (with nearly as many people).  It goes from the Eastern border of Chad, south of the Sahara, to the Northern Border of the DR Congo.  The Atlantic Ocean is on the west and the Gulf of Guinea is on the south.

I think it is pretty cool that West Africa is kind of a mirror image to the eastern US, with the Atlantic Ocean either east or west and the Gulf of Mexico or Guinea south.  There is one big difference: the US has Florida hanging down there.  It needs to be lopped off.  As missionaries in that hot, humid state, we sometimes were suggesting lopping it off or letting it sink into the ocean.  Al Gore would have been happy if that had happened.

The Church is officially recognized in 7 countries.  We have applied for visas in all 7 of these: Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cote D’ Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin and Nigeria.  They either speak French or English as their official languages.  Of course, there are lots of local languages, but following the colonial period, European languages were adopted.  Ghana used to be known as Gold Coast, but assumed its ancient name when it became independent,
There are close to 175,000 members of the Church in this area and they are currently baptizing more than 1,000 a month.

There are 10 missions in West Africa with over 900 full-time missionaries, most of whom are young African men and women. Nigeria has most of the members at this time (just over 100,000 members).  Nigeria is called the “Giant of Africa” due to its huge population, (150 million).  But it also has some political unrest and there are security issues as we go into that country.  Ghana has the most stable government and that is why the headquarters are there.

They have 35 stakes in this Area and 610 Church units that need to be audited twice a year.
Photograph of the Accra Ghana Mormon TempleThere are two temples in West Africa.  One of them is in Accra, Ghana and the other in Nigeria.  We will most likely live near “Temple Square” in Ghana. 

This is the Accra, Ghana Temple.

The Area Presidency, which we will report to directly, is made up of three Seventies: Elders John B. Dickson, Joseph W. Sitati, and LeGrand R. Curtis, Jr.  There are 8 Area Seventies, all of whom are Africans.

We are going to be assisting in local unit auditing and training and other duties as assigned.

We will fly non-stop to JFK and then non-stop to Accra.  Both flights are on Delta, so we will rack up some air miles. 

I still don't know why there is a shortage of chocolate chips, pecans and walnuts.

OK, there is a lot of detail here, but I hope it has not been too much.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Pulling a hand cart

Greg entering the MTC
By Greg

The first go around I was allowed to take one suitcase and a briefcase.  It was a real trick to get all my stuff in that one case, but it was a premium Samsonite and a couple of us sat on it and then locked it shut.  Samsonite suitcases were top of the line.  The TV commerical for them showed a bunch of gorillas in a zoo and they threw in several Samsonites.  The apes jumped on them, tossed them around and did everything a primate or airport baggage handler would do to try to hurt them.  Of course, they came out without a scratch and never ever opened.  I think I still have this case, though I never use it.  I also filled my briefcase to its full capacity.

This time we are both allowed two checked bags not to exceed 50 pounds each.  We have been packing them for several weeks.  I have taken mine to the gym a couple of times to balance the weight.  I am determined to get my full 100 pounds.

It is amazing to consider that handcart pioneers were allowed only 17 pounds per person.  Now, that did not include their food, but it was the limit for all of their personal items, make-up, clothes, etc.

You can imagine the normal stuff we are taking: clothes, shoes, underwear, skirts (Debi only), socks, etc.  But there are some unusual items that we are including that I though might be interesting.

1 suit for me.  I am to wear it there, hang it up, wear it home, and never touch it in between.

I get to wear sandals.  Not all the time, but I am taking sandals.

Flip-flops are essential for both of us.  Women wear them to church in Africa.

Swimming suits.  We can not drink the water but there are opportunities to swim in it.  Yes, couples can go swimming.  We may not be able to swim laps, but we are taking our goggles as well.

Debi has been told that the make-up there is poor so she is taking a two-year supply.  However, we will both sweat so much in the heat that make-up serves little value.  I have decided to go make-up free.

We are taking converters and transformers to allow our electrical stuff (hair dryers, shavers, electric drills and skill saws--not really!) to work on the 220 power, which is somewhat unreliable.

We need an international drivers permit which we have obtained from AAA.  We will have a car, and they drive on the same side of the road as we do in the US, however, the following has been repeated several times "Driving regulations are similar to those in the US (but don't count on the locals observing any of the rules!  This can never be adequately have to see it to believe it).

Measuring cups and zip lock bags.

A memory foam mattress pad for a king sized bed.  African mattresses are compared to high school wrestling pads.  This pad is huge, and even though it is still in its package, it takes up a lot of room.

Your favorite pillow.  Debi is taking one, I am taking Debi.

Medications.  Our doctor has given us his African pills supplies.  We look like drug dealers.  Even though you can get medicines in Africa, Dr. Debi will be able to heal me of any ailement with her herbs and bottles.

They say if you have any spare room, imagine that!  We might want to bring chocolate chips, pecans and walnuts.  I ate a lot of pecan pie in Florida, maybe there is a correlation to missions and pecans.  We are not taking them, but we hope we don't get there and say, "Oh Crap!  Where are the walnuts!"  Oh, I won't say "crap" after I am set apart.

I am also taking flashlights, knifes (this is a tool, not a weapon) a compass and a few other non-disclosed items.

So, we are nearly packed.  I don't think I need help sitting on our bags to close them.  But I am sure glad that today, suitcase bags have wheels!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Africa, Here We Come

by Debi

When I was a young girl I dreamed of going on a mission with my husband.  Since we were newlyweds Greg and I have talked for hours about going on a mission together.

I always said that I would leave my family and go and serve but NOT TO AFRICA!  I dreamed of the visitor center in Hawaii. Maybe we could serve a temple mission in New Zealand.  I saw some missionaries planting flowers in Kirtland, Ohio.  Now that would be a very wonderful mission. 

When our mission call came we each had our own letter.  I opened mine to see the words “West Africa Area”.  We weren’t even going to a specific mission.  We are to serve under the direction of the Area Presidency and I was to be the Assistant to the Area Auditor.  Well, I am sure you can guess who the Area Auditor will be!  Yes, I will be Greg’s assistant.  What else is new?  I have been doing that for 37 years.  I think I can do it for another two years. Actually I am thrilled to be his assistant.  I will love helping Greg and serving the Lord.

After all of the excitement of getting our call, reality set in and we had a lot to do.  Every day Greg and I have a full list of work, errands, and projects to accomplish.  Our daughter, Judi, and her husband, Mike, and their two little boys are going to come and live in our house.  I feel like the pressure is on to have every closet, every drawer, and every cupboard cleaned out.  I also feel the pressure of having everything in good working order.  We have repaired the water softener, fixed locks, replaced door knobs, and etc, etc.  We also have a huge yard and we have been trying to get everything in good shape so it won’t be too big of a chore for Judi and Mike.

After all is said and done it all boils down to this one thing.  I have a firm testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is God’s true church here on earth.  I have made promises to give all that I have to building up the kingdom of God here on this earth.  This is why I am going on a mission.  This is why I am leaving my precious little grandchildren that I will miss so dearly.  This is why I am leaving my seven daughters, their families, and my one son and his family.  If I didn’t have this testimony and faith I would never leave my family.  They are too important to me.  I will miss them terribly. The one huge comfort that I have is Greg will be there with me.  We will be a team and we will love each other and support each other
and take care of each other.

The moral of the story, don’t say out loud where you will not go.  You will probably be called there just to test your faith.  So Africa here I come.  (Maybe next time I will say “I will go and serve but NOT TO HAWAII!)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The car, or the girl?

Greg's mission photo

When I left on my first mission in 1971 (that sounds a little like Elder LeGrande Richards--who most of you have never heard of--but he was an apostle that went on, like 100 missions and I met him on mine) I faced two challenges: leaving my girlfriend and leaving my car.

For a teenage boy, a car and a girl are almost the same, and if he was water-boarded and torchered, he might admit that he loved the car more than the girl.  In my case, they were inseparably connected in my mind because I used the car to help me with the girl.  Having a nice car was not essential, but it helped.

1964 Ford Faclcon 289 V-8

My car was pretty cool.  It had a bench seat but a stick shift "on the floor" and it did not have seat belts (imagine that you mothers with extensive child restraining and imagination hindering apparatus--OK, just kidding).  I polished the vinyl seats with Lemon Pledge, which not only made the car smell good, but made the seats very slippery.  Thus, I could move my girl either closer to me or away (why would I want to do that!) with just a sharp turn of the steering wheel.

We were (are) SO Cute!

Today, we all have our own seats, and seat belts, and we all know our place, but in those days the girl's place was sitting as close to the boy as possible.  Often, Debi had to shift the gears for me because my right arm was busy holding onto her so she would not slip away.

Speaking of slipping away, both Debi and my car slipped away.  Actually, I was the one who slipped, or flew away to Alabama-Florida.  I missed them both.  I did not sell Debi or turn her over to anyone else to maintain. But,with my car it was different. I reasoned that if I tried to keep my car, Wayne would wreck it while I was gone (he actually did wreck almost all of the other family cars).  So I sold my car.  I can still feel the pain as some other teenage boy drove away in "my car". 

Final kiss at the airport
I can also remember the pain as I left Debi.  But, in the end, some other teenage boy did not drive away with her!

This go around, we are putting our cars in storage and I am taking the girl with me.  Debi secretly is hoping for periodic transfers and changes of companions, but I feel pretty sure she will be my companion for the entire mission and "to infinity and beyond".  Oh, the joy.

2005 Ford Mustang GT
One more thing, I am not telling Wayne where the keys are located.

Monday, August 6, 2012

I hope they call me on a mission!

In July of 2010, Debi and I sat down and made a list of 22 issues that we needed to resolve before we could go on a mission.  It is amazing, looking back now, 2 years later, how nearly all of them have been resolved.  I thought for my first post I would list these 22 items.  Perhaps, other people have a similar list, though not exactly the same.

1.     Is it safe to go out into the world given the current world conditions?
2.     When is the right time to apply for a mission?
3.     What will happen to my mother while we are gone?
4.     What about Debi's dad?
5.     What will happen to our home and yard?
6.     How will we pay for our "home"expenses?
7.     How will our children get along without us?
8.    What about our grandchildren (we have 28 with one on the way)?  We will miss births, baptisms, birthdays, sickness, school and sport activities--their hugs and kisses--how can we endure that?
9.     Are we really willing to go and serve wherever we are called?  Even if it is not the Hawaii Visitor Center?
10.    What will we do about health insurance?
11.     How will we pay for our mission expenses?
12.    What will happen to our cabin while we are gone?
13.    What will happen to our Marriott time-share units while we are gone?
14.     What will we do with our boat?
15.     What about our cars?
16.    What about my Mustang?  Should we sell it?
17.    Who will take care of the pool with Debi gone?
18.    Will we be able to exercise on our mission?  Can we swim?
19.    What will we do with our unsold lots and the debt associated with them?
20.    What will we do about the 9.5 million dollar lawsuit filed against Greg by the FDIC?
21.    What will we do about our businesses?
22.     Can Debi and I learn to work together in love and kindness so we can have the Spirit with us?  And can we live in close quarters and be happy?

Well, on March 15, 2012 we decided that enough of these issues were resolved, so we filled out the application and sent it off into cyber-space and soon we got a call from our Bishop and then our Stake President and on April 17, 2012 we both got a letter from President Thomas S. Monson calling us to be missionaries to serve in the Africa West Area located in Accra, Ghana.  We were told to report to the MTC in Provo on September 3, 2012.

So the adventure begins!