It has been so long since I have written, and I'm not quite sure where to begin. We have been BUSY and the weeks are going very quickly. I try and post occasionally on Facebook and let you all know we are still alive and doing well.
The work is going great! We are able to participate in many teaching opportunities. There have been many changes in the Mission over the last few months. They have moved the Fort Meyers area out of our mission and into the Fort Lauderdale Mission. This cut the number of missionaries in our mission by quite a bit. This means less cars, but it also has made the Tampa Florida Mission much smaller in area. This has not been a bad thing for us because it makes it much easier for the whole mission to get together more often. We have had some great Mission and Zone Trainings over the last few months. We had a wonderful opportunity to be trained by Elder Zwick for two weeks in a row. I love it when all of the missionaries get together, there is such strength in this Army of The Lord.
We have also had many changes in our District the last few weeks. We have gone from four Elders down to two. We have also had two other sets of Elders transferred in the last few weeks, Our District now consists of one set of Elders (assigned to our Branch) and 4 sets of Sister missionaries. Elder Fawou is the District leader,so right now we are telling him he is the "sistrict leader". We are not sure what will happen over the next few weeks. Transfers are on the 29th so we shall see who we get. In spite of the changes, I am ever impressed with the strength and testimonies of these missionaries.
We have a number of people the Elders are teaching and we get the opportunity to tag along with the sisters quite often. We have become great friend with Victoria. She is from Bulgaria and came in contact with us because a tenet in her apartment building is a member of the church. She is so very intelligent, and so educated. She has looked at the gospel in a very logical way and wanted to be able to understand exactly how it all works together. Out of all the churches she has investigated, she said the LDS church is so different and yet makes so much sense. She prays in such a humble and heartfelt way. She has a date set to be baptized in May and we can't wait to see her in the water. She has a great deal of strength and determination. Combine that with the gospel and there will be no stopping her!
We also are helping with our "little Miss Mary". She is the most humble, sweetest little sister. I'm guessing she is in her 60's and cleans houses a couple of days a week. She is up every morning reading her book of scriptures and praising Jesus every moment of the day. She was riding the bus almost 1 1/2 hours to get to the Sisters in St. Petersburg for her lessons.
We had a baptism yesterday of a 9 year old girl. She started coming to church with one of our Ward Clerks that lives on a boat next to hers in the Marina. She is the cutest little girl and has made quick friends with everyone in the Branch. I think the Elders had taught her two lessons when she said to them "so when can I get baptized"? Her mother is not a member but she has some close friends that are members of the church. Primary songs truly strengthened her testimony.
President Cusick has asked us to attend all of the baptisms in the Stake, so we have had some amazing opportunities to meet and visit with all of the new converts. It keeps us busy because the Stake is quite large. Gulfport is at the south end of the Stake and Hudson in 2 hours north of us and they are the north boundary. We have 3 baptisms in Hudson this next weekend. We really have enjoyed this assignment. It is exciting to watch as people make these covenants and share testimony. We are also able to see the great support of the wards.
Some of the things we have been able to do in the last few months is go to the temple in Orlando four times. That has been a great blessing! We went with the youth of the Branch, the Sisters in the Stake, with a group of new and returning members from the Seminole Ward and one time just us when we went over to see the Heggie family at Disney World. We have been to the Bishop's Storehouse in Plant City on a couple of assignments, which Dad has loved. We went to the Manatee Center at Appolo Beach to see the Manatees...very fascinating creatures. We went to Clearwater Aquarium to see Winter and Hope, the dolphins in the movies "Dophin's Tale 1 & 2" . I really enjoyed it, but Dad was not so impressed. We were doing a "Flat Stanley" project for my cousin Melissa's daughter. It was fun to have him tag along with us. We went to the St. Petersburg Grand Prix and watched the race from the Beck's 31st floor apartment. They are such a great couple and so supportive of the missionaries and the branch. We have been able to get with the other Senior couples in the mission a few times, enjoy food, compare notes, and talk. We have had two couples go home this month and will have one couple coming in May. We were able to drive half way across the state to take two of our Elders to Sebring. It was a great drive and we saw a ton of orange groves and a beautiful part of Florida...countryside, not city. We enjoyed the day and the drive, but we will sure miss those two Elders.
I am going to attach a sampling of all of the pictures I have taken over the last few months and try and do a little description with them. Since I am as bad at keeping a journal as I am at writing letters, this Blog may be the only record we were ever in Florida. I will try and do better, promise.
We do love it here! It has its ups and downs and is not always a bed of roses, but we wouldn't trade the opportunities and blessing we have received. We love you all and are so thankful for your support and keeping us posted on the things happening at home.
The restored gospel of Jesus Christ is true, He is there for us at all times. We are guided by a living prophet Thomas S. Monson, who is his spokesman here on this Earth at this time. The Lord has blessed us in so many ways, we are eternally in his debt. Stay close to the covenants you have made and He will always be with you.
Love you all,
Mom and Dad