This was a week to say goodbye to several couples who are going home, some for other church assignments, others to hone their grand-parenting skills. We will miss them all: Clarks, Tibbetts, & Heckles. This is a transition time for us as well - the temple is now closed for two weeks. We had a light week - no buses, no large groups coming. That will change in February when the temple reopens, with large groups scheduled from Cote d’Ivoire. We will also welcome the Piersons in mid-February as a second temple couple. They will be living in our building and perhaps sharing a car, if that is approved. They previously served in Russia and are good friends of Anne and Dave Richards (my sister and brother in law).
The last 2 Sundays, I have been substituting for the youth Sunday school class. There is approximately the same number of males and females between 12-18 in a group of about 25. It has been great to prepare and be with the youth again. I do miss teaching.
I was very moved by a short welfare film that was shown in our scripture study class on Monday. It pictured a young African earning money so he could go on a mission. He was required to pay for his passport and save $US 250. That is a major amount of money here. He figured out that he could sell bananas in a town an hour and a half away by bike. Bananas are very cheap here - 2 or 3 cents each. On good days he could make 2 full trips - that is 6 hours by bike in one day. Admirably, he has already paid for his passport and has $70 saved. It made me wonder how many young men in the US and Canada make that kind of preparation so that they can go.
The Heckels made several donations to our kitchen in their cleaning-out to move. It is amazing what I get excited about these days: some sharp cutting knives, bounce dryer sheets, coarse ground pepper, a new dustpan and mop, some orange lentils, a small frying pan, muffin tins and some small dessert bowls. Therefore I took the opportunity to rearrange the kitchen cupboard. When I leave, I will pass all these and more to whoever needs them.
I am up to chapter 15 of Mosiah in my French Book of Mormon. My real struggle is with passé simple and verbs that I do not recognize but I have made much progress when I compare where I was last January when we received our call. I am trying to be finished in June of this year. I hope that isn’t being too optimistic.
With the temple closed, we are traveling to Israel with the Grahams for 11 days to introduce them to the Holy Land. We were there with Ben and Christy 3 years ago and spent three weeks exploring and learning much. We refer to it as a life-changing experience. This time we are better prepared, having taken a Great Courses review of archeology in Israel and studied more of the historical and scriptural records. Our first trip was transformational - perspectives and understanding were definitely changed. The expectations this time are a bit different but we are keen to see it again, both through our own eyes and through the eyes of our friends. We will not be posting next Sunday, because we will be in Jerusalem but should have some great adventures to write about on the 29th.