Sunday, October 28, 2012

Two Weeks to Go

When we realized we had only three weeks to go before entering the MTC there were a lot of questions related to getting ready to go.  There are also a lot of questions about where we will be serving and what we will be doing.  Here is a little hint.

We will enter the MTC, train for 5 days, and arrive in San Juan on November 17.  The instructions say to pack so that we will not need to unpack our bags for the short stay in San Juan.  There are six small islands in our mission  that are English speaking.  (There might be others that speak Dutch or French.)  We will most likely be sent to one of them.  They are places where the cruise ships dock in the Caribbean.  I have never been on a cruise, there or anywhere else, but the islands are St Thomas, St Croix, St Kitts, Antigua, Tortola, and Dominica.  Check them out on Google Earth.  The largest is Dominica and it looks to be about 10 miles x 30 miles.  The rest of them are much smaller.  So we will be living on a tropical island south of Puerto Rico.

We also received a letter from the Church Music Department telling us that we will likely be involved in the Church music teaching activity.  We will have the opportunity to work with members who want to learn to play the keyboard and to lead the singing in their church meetings.  There is even a way that those who work at it can gain possession of the keyboards, with the hope that they will in turn teach others to play.  This is really getting exciting!

Stay tuned.  

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The rest of the story, to be continued...

I have had trouble sleeping for the past week or so.  I guess the excitement and anticipation of receiving a mission call has taken its toll.  So last Friday I got up early and wrote my last blog entry.  I am sure it sounded a little frustrated, because I felt a little bit that way.  I mean, how long does it take, really, to get a letter from Salt Lake to Twin Falls!  We were planning on driving to Salt Lake Friday to go to the Book of Mormon Archeological Foundation (BMAF) annual meeting.  I was planning on taking Tom and Spencer along because they have both been to Guatemala with me on dental service missions, and they have seen some of the ruins down there.  Gaye said she wanted to delay our departure for Salt Lake until after the mail was delivered.
Handsome Peruvian boy

The first hint I had that something was going on was when my grandson excitedly informed me that “it is here!”  Yep, there were three pieces of mail, each with the same incorrect zip code on the front.  I am not sure they went to New Mexico, but they sure took the scenic routs to Twin Falls in any case.  So how are we going to do this?  Should we call all the kids and let them participate by Skype or Facetime, or just by regular telephone?  Should we just have Kim come over and open it with her, then call the others?  Becki and Ethan were here, so it  would not be like we were trying to leave people out.  Which of us do you think was the most impatient about this?  Yes, it was Gaye.  She could not wait!  Well, I was also a little excited, but I tried to not show it.  You know, be cool.

Rexburg Idaho Temple
Nauvoo Illinois Temple
I set up a couple of cameras to record our response to the moment of opening the letter.  The travel information came in a larger envelope, so I wanted to open that one first.  When I received my call to South Africa centuries ago I opened that one first and a little piece of yellow paper fell out.  It said, “You should apply for a passport immediately.”  I knew I was going somewhere outside the USA.  Gaye vetoed that idea, though, and she opened her letter.  

Dear Sister Patterson,  (There was one identical addressed to me.)

Twin Falls Temple
You are hereby called to serve as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  You are assigned to labor in the Puerto Rico San Juan Mission.  (We both registered shock and surprise at that moment, caught forever on camera.)  Your primary assignment is to labor as a member and leader support missionary.  It is anticipated that you will serve for 18 months.

You should report to the Provo Missionary Training Center on Monday, November 12, 2012.  

Brisbane Australia Temple
My siblings just before my mission
We both also registered extreme shock and surprise at that bit of information.  That is only three weeks!  If the letters had not been wandering around in New Mexico we would have had a few more days, but then we would have just relaxed and put it off longer, so the short time is probably better.  Besides, we have actually been doing things to get ready for the past couple of months.

So there you have it.  San Juan Puerto Rico. I would not have guessed that in three lifetimes.  I was thinking of something like India or Siberia or the Seychelle Islands.  We have a Spanish vocabulary between us of about 10 words.  Gaye can say “Gracias”.  
Jackson with his dog and his chicken
George Patterson, Missionary

The rest of the day was a blur.  We drove to Salt Lake, talking all the way.  The BMAF meeting on Saturday was good, especially the part of being with Tom and Spencer, and then we drove home.  Oh, I forgot to say that Gaye went shopping with Kay, her sister.  I simply reminded her that she would only be able to take two suit cases weighing 50 pounds each, so don’t get carried away.  She actually behaved herself very well.  Now I must go get a few white shirts and pairs of slacks.  I am to take one suit, and I think (hope) that will be for when I am at the MTC in Provo.  The weather is tropical, always around 80-90 degrees (Fahrenheit, of course, because the USA is still on the archaic British measuring system) in the daytime and 70 at night.  Humidity is high, the sun is straight overhead, there are tropical storms and hurricanes for half the year, we will be at sea sounds like Paradise to me.  Besides, this dry Idaho air wreaks havoc on my nose and skin.  Senior missionaries can go into the ocean, too.  

I have been making a list of questions.  The mission includes the Lesser Antilles Islands that string out from Puerto Rico like a strand of pearls.  Some of those islands speak French, some speak Dutch, some are Spanish, and maybe English even figures in there somewhere.  I had a couple years’ French in college, long ago.  Afrikaans is quite similar to Dutch.  Maybe our mission president will send us out to a little branch of the Church on one of those islands where we can just get lost in helping people grow in their testimonies as we work with them each day.  I will fill in the blanks as we go along.  Stay tuned.

That’s all for now.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Not Yet. Here's Why.

So I asked myself how long it should take to get a letter from Salt Lake to Twin Falls.  Interesting question, I suppose.  The message we received from our bishop was that our call had been mailed out on October 8, 2012.  (The year might be important here.)  He said he thought we could expect our call as early as Thursday or as late as Monday.  That should be enough time to get a piece of mail from a couple hundred miles.

October 8 was a Monday, officially the celebration date for Columbus Day, so there would be no activity in postal matters on that day.  Seeing the calendar I decided that I would go for the Monday delivery date as more realistic.  We checked the mail every day, of course, and some of our kids were thinking of gathering for the big event.  But nothing arrived before the weekend so Gaye and I just settled in for the week.  It was actually nice to have the quiet house to ourselves for a couple of days.  We love having the kids and grandkids visit.  But it also takes a couple of days to recover, get things put back where they belong, unlock the doors and drawers where the little ones find their treasures, find the remote controls to various electronic know, that sort of thing.

Nothing on Monday, October 15.  Nor Tuesday.  Maybe Wednesday.  We have had Gaye’s final doctor’s appointment in Boise to follow up on the hip surgery scheduled for several weeks.  That happened to be on Wednesday, so we drove 2 hours over there for the 7.5 minute checkup, visited the Potters Center for some pottery supplies, and even took in a tour of the remodeled Boise LDS Temple.  (It is very nice, by the way.  The chandelier in the Celestial Room took my breath away.)  As we sat down to eat at the Chuck Wagon there came a message from Kim, the daughter living in Twin Falls.  She had gone to our house to check the mail, certainly with mischief in mind, but nothing had arrived.  So we did not hurry home.

Maybe it will come Thursday.  I’m trying to not lose sleep over this, though, so I lined up some projects for the day, including mowing the lawn.  I have put the garden to sleep, but the lawn will probably hang on for a few more weeks.  If it does not come today, I thought, I will call somebody to find out what is going on.  After all, I think I could walk to Salt Lake in 10 days.  Well, I would have to be in better shape than I am now, but it could be done.  So while I was out mowing the lawn the mail was delivered.  I just rode my little tractor over to the mailbox, with a little elevation in my pulse, and wondered whether we would be going to somewhere like Madagascar or somewhere like Butte Montana.  Only the usual 6 or 7 catalogues; nothing of even cursory interest was there.  So I called my bishop and he said he would check on it.  Meanwhile, Gaye called the Church Headquarters operator, was connected to the Missionary Department, and was informed that the letter really was sent out on October 8, 2012.  

She asked where it was sent.  That was when she learned that the zip code was wrong,  It was sent to 88301 instead of 83301.  With Google at hand we quickly found out that the letters (there will actually be one for each of us, or so I have been told) were headed for Carrizozo New Mexico.  I am not making this up.  It was a little hard to find on the map, but Google Earth brought it into view.  Interesting little place with a population of 840, down from 1488 in the 2000 census, majority of whom are Hispanic (I knew I should have taken Spanish instead of French).  It looks like there are a few young families there, the highest price for house sold in the past year is $120,000, average wage is $23,000, population density is 0.765 per square mile, cost of living well below the national average, a few hours drive from Carlsbad Caverns (I would actually love to go see the caves and the bats some day), and about mid-way between Albuquerque and El Paso.  Check it out.  Maybe we will be sent there for the next 18 months.  Maybe we should just hop in the car and drive down to retrieve our paperwork.  The Missionary Department said they would send out new call letters that should arrive at the correct address (how can 83301 be confused with 88301?) some time next week.  I thought about calling the postmaster in Carrizozo to see if he/she would open it and read it to us before sending it to the right place.  Maybe I’ll do that today.

Meanwhile, I think I will go out and make some more pots.  We will quite likely be here until Christmas and I need some pots to give as gifts.

That’s all for now.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Mission Call-Not Yet

I have been postponing another entry here because we have been expecting our mission call.  We sent in our papers in April.  Actually, none of it is by paper any more.  It is all online.  Anyway, we filled out the forms, answered all the questions, and forwarded it to our bishop. He added some comments and forwarded it to the stake president, who made some comments and sent it on to Salt Lake.  We were available after mid-September.  Two of our daughters were expecting babies in August.   (Both beautiful little granddaughters are safely here now.)

While we were on a trip to Vancouver and Seattle in early May, visiting friends there and taking in the breath-taking beauty of the rhododendrons in the Northwest, I received a call from our stake president.  One of the questions in the health history was about any surgeries that we had been advised to have that had not yet been done.  President said the medical people in Salt Lake were concerned about the hip surgery Gaye had been advised to have but was not yet done.  She had been experiencing increasing discomfort in her hip, the result from a horse riding accident many centuries ago.  One of our good friends had actually received his call and then had both hips replaced after his call was received, so we sent in our papers and scheduled the surgery.  July was the earliest Gaye could get in, so that was our plan.  So President wanted to know if we should consider an assignment that would not require much walking--in other words, a desk job.

I told him that we wanted to be out and active, that the hip was scheduled, and that we anticipated that we would be all ready to go with a healed new hip by our availability date in September.  He said he would call us right back.  Well, he called the medical people in Salt Lake back and they told him that we should get the hip done and recover for 3-6 months (months!  I was thinking 3-6 weeks based on our friend’s experience), and then the papers should be resubmitted.  Okay.  Fine.  We thought we might still be able to get out of here before Thanksgiving.

The hip replacement surgery went great and after three uneventful weeks of healing we were ready to reactivate the application.  President said all he would need to do is push a button and it would be rolling again.  So I told him we were doing great and he could push the button.  Two weeks passed and no word of any action going on with the application.  Then President said there was a problem.  The application had been cancelled!  We were not even in the system any more.  So we reviewed the previously filled out application form, sent it to our bishop who forwarded it to our stake president (sound familiar?) who sent it on the Salt Lake.  Bishop received a notice by email that the application was received on September 4.  I concluded that we would probably not be going by mid-September.

We had not heard anything more, except that there was another message that the application had been received September 12 (!).  We would need to be a little patient.  That is no problem because we are really not in a hurry.  Maybe we will be out of town by Christmas.  That is fine because none of our kids were planning on coming to our place for Christmas this year.  Our turn was last year.  

September ended and still no more information.  Gaye’s sister has been on two missions with her husband and has been through this before.  She had a number to call in Salt Lake that would connect us to the missionary department and we could find out where we were in the process.  So I called the number and the service missionary on the other end looked up our names.  Our application was ready to go to the Twelve.  We learned that the procedure for assigning couples is a little different from that for the young elders and sisters.  A summary is sent to each of the departments who compare the application to their needs.  They make recommendations back to the committee who forward that on to the Twelve, who make the assignments.  Then it goes to President Monson for approval, on to the mailing department for processing and mailing, and the call will usually be received by the missionaries the end of the week after the papers go to the Twelve.  So the man on the phone said we should get our call by the end of next week.  When I first called Church Headquarters, though, and was transferred to the missionary department, there was a message to leave a message.  I wanted to talk to a real person, so I hung up and tried again, that time making connection with a real person, who gave me the information.  However, I received a call back from another missionary in Salt Lake who was returning my first attempt.  He also looked up our information and said the Twelve would not be meeting this week because of General Conference, so we should not expect to receive our call before October 20.
I am retired now (am I enjoying it?  YES!), so we are really not on a tight schedule.  There are plenty of things to do between now and when we leave.  The anticipation has been getting a little old because we would like to be preparing in specific ways for our assignment.  And the problem of not knowing has been a little burdensome.  So now we can begin to make some plans.  We want to go to Yellowstone, visit the kids, put the garden to sleep, get the maintenance issues on the house, furnace, carpets, yard, etc, all resolved.  Maybe we will be out of here before Christmas, but we are not betting on it.  (Have you ever noticed how Mormons bet on everything, but never in a way that would exchange money?  You wanna bet?)  That is okay.  Whenever and wherever we go is fine.  Gaye and I are just happy to be alive, well, and moving on with life.  I hope you are, too.

That’s all for now.  The next blog will be with specific information of where we will be and what we will be doing for the next 18 months.