Saturday, October 18, 2014

" . . . having obtained a good report through faith"

In accepting the call to serve full-time missions, Ann and I stepped out into the unknown.  We knew nothing about record preservation, yet we were to be "specialists."  We knew only as much about FamilySearch as we had used in our own research and family history work.  We had read some sections of Preach My Gospel before our call, yet it was to be like scripture to us in the broader aspect of our being missionaries.  Indiana was just a place on the map that we'd spent a couple of days in during the 2013 Tabernacle Choir Tour.  Our training at the MTC and in Salt Lake City only scratched the surface of what we would be doing in our specific corner of the vineyard.

Light at the end of the "tunnel," one of Indiana's covered bridges
So many unknowns.  Faith was our only light in the darkness, and it has provided the firm foundation on which we've been able to build.  We are being blessed with success, "obtaining good reports through faith" (Hebrews 11:39) as we grow.

Terabyte drive we send each Friday
We have submitted 106,000 images to the FamilySearch audit team during these first 13 weeks.  Only one has been returned for us to fix--to rotate it 90 degrees.  The glory for such a "good report" goes entirely to God.  We've been prompted by the Spirit to go back and fix errors.  Our attention to detail has been beyond our natural ability.  Physically staying on task for those 8 hours every day is a gift from Heaven.  We've been given insight into how to work with the delicate documents and better control the camera and software.  All this strengthened our faith.

Giving a FamilySearch presentation to the Genealogy Club
We are "strangers in a strange land," yet as we've reached out to the folks around us, trying to enlarge our circle of friends, we have found them in the ward, at the courthouse and in the community.  This has required its own application of faith, going beyond our normal level of comfort.
Rehearsing with the community band

This last week the local paper printed an article about us and our work, another "good report" that came from our dependence on the Lord.

We find our foundation of faith in knowing that God is aware of us, has sent us here, and is giving us support through the Spirit and through the presence of those Indiana pioneers whose records we are preserving.  In the end, it is God's "good report" that we seek, "lifting where we stand" in this work of building his Kingdom. 

Here's the text from the article:

Volunteers Help With County Records

Documents are fading and deteriorating
Some of Montgomery County's vital records date back to the 1820s.  They are deteriorating, yet the county is required by law to preserve the information.  Preserving the actual documents is too costly, and the county doesn't have the manpower to microfilm them all.  To solve this problem, the Montgomery County Chief Deputy Clerk, Valerie Howard, working under the direction of Clerk Jennifer Bentley, has entered into an agreement with FamilySearch to digitally preserve these old documents.

FamilySearch is a nonprofit family history organization.  It has the largest archive of historical and genealogical records in the world, over 3 billion documents.  FamilySearch has pioneered industry standards for gathering, imaging, indexing, and preserving records, and shares these resources free of charge worldwide.

Community and LDS Ward worked together to prepare them
During June, a team of volunteers, organized by local genealogy expert Stephen Thompson, prepared the Montgomery County probate records from 1824 to 1888 for photographing.  Since mid-July two record-preservation specialists from FamilySearch have been digitally capturing these records with sophisticated camera and computer equipment.  These specialists are a husband/wife team, Michael and Ann Packham.  They left their retirement in Utah to work 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM every weekday at the courthouse, taking the approximately 180,000 images.  They are doing this at their own expense as a ministry for their faith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The process, one prepares and the other captures
At approximately 10,000 images per week, the project is now about half done.  In addition to the probate records, it will also include large indexes of wills and marriages.  After finishing this project the Packhams will continue to serve in other Indiana counties until December, 2015, the end of their 18-month ministerial calling.

The public is invited to the Packhams' corner of the courthouse basement to see the process.  They are also giving presentations about family history and the preservation project to youth, civic, and religious groups, and they are helping individual families get started on their own histories.

County clerks receiving the first 33,000 images from SLC
The images will not only be available through the county clerk's office, but will eventually be online at for use by historians, genealogists, and the descendants of these pioneers of our community.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Establish a House

   "...Establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God."  (D & C 88:119)

   Our first priority on arriving in Crawfordsville, was to "establish a house".  The missionaries had already arranged for our housing weeks ahead of time.  We simply moved in with our own belongings.  We finally had a home.  However, within a few days we discovered other houses that would be important in our new life in Indiana.

A House of Prayer

First day at the Courthouse.
   Just four blocks east of our apartment is the Montgomery County Courthouse.  We occupy a small storage room in the basement where the probate records are kept.  Our shift begins at 8:00 in the morning and ends at 4:30 in the afternoon every day the courthouse is open.
   We always begin the day with prayer.   We have affectionately named our Nikon camera, Nick.  We have prayed that he and the other equipment would work together properly.  We have prayed that we could solve problems beyond our own understanding.  We have prayed that our hand movements would be quick and efficient.  We have prayed that we would feel help from the other side.  
   More than once, our prayers have been answered as we have been prompted to ask questions, review our work to find errors, and try new procedures.  Alma chapter 34 tells us to pray over the flocks of the field.  We pray over the files of our project.

A House of Fasting

Elder Packham teaching "The Family Is of God"
   We attend the Crawfordsville Ward in the Lafayette Stake.  The members have been so friendly and helpful in making us feel welcome.  As a ward, we have been involved in several special fasts for members and for specific needs.  
   We have also been given the opportunity to serve in the Primary.  Michael leads the singing and I play the piano.  Right now we are preparing for the Sacrament Meeting program in November. Even though there are only 15 to 20 children in the Primary, they love to sing and they sing loud!  We really love the people in the Crawfordsville ward.

A House of Faith

506 West Main
   When we think of Main Street USA, we picture McDonalds, Kohls, and assorted Jiffy Lubes.  In Crawfordsville, Main Street is residential.  We share the building with three other tenants.  With a large kitchen, living room and bedroom, there is more than sufficient space.  Gratefully, the apartment came with a washer and dryer and two bathrooms that are functional most of the time (a story for another blog).
   This location immediately became a house of faith for us.  Our schedule allows us to arise early each morning to study, journal, and prepare for the day.  We have invited guests to our home that we felt needed gospel encouragement or to feel the spirit of love and peace in a home atmosphere.  We have entertained the missionaries as they have taught the gospel to others.  We have shared our own testimonies with many new friends of various faiths and backgrounds.  

A House of Learning

   We can learn in so many places.  Wabash College is only a few blocks from our apartment.  Michael has taken the opportunity to get involved in their music program.  He participated in the Concerts in the Park during the summer months.  He is practicing with the Wabash orchestra and a separate brass ensemble for upcoming concerts.  These groups are comprised of students, faculty and community members.
   Through new friends, I have collected Crinoids along the banks of the Sugar Creek and learned how to embroider greeting cards.  

A House of Glory

Sister Rowley's yellow daisies
    There are beautiful sights in Crawfordsville.  I have taken up the hobby of photographing the beauties of nature.  Everywhere we can see God's handiwork in His creations.  We have enjoyed seeing the squirrels at work preparing for the winter.  The flower gardens have been beautiful.  The green trees of the summer are quickly turning red, yellow and orange.  There is beautiful blue sky.  Sugar Creek and the Wabash River provide other beautiful scenery.  All of these testify of the glory and the goodness of God.


A House of Order

Building muscles at the gym
   There must be order and balance in our lives. Wherever Michael goes, whether on vacation or a new home, he scouts out the physical fitness facilities.  Athena Sport and Fitness is the local hangout for anyone who desires to swim, lift weights, run, or use the other "instruments of torture" (as I call them).  He has made several new friends at the gym, including an 80 year old man named Dick, who is so faithful in exercising every morning.
   The marque outside the building reads: "A year from now you will be sorry you didn't start today."  Last week, we made a renewed commitment to get ourselves in better shape.  A New Year's Resolution in October! 

A House of God

Old Town Cemetery
   One day when I was out walking I discovered a very old cemetery.  It was located in a secluded grove of trees, very peaceful and lovely.  It had been established in 1811.
   So often missionary work is only associated with "preaching the gospel".  Our work at the courthouse is also missionary work.  It brings our brothers and sisters to the House of God and unites families for eternity.  The records we are capturing represent real people whose descendants, someday, will come to know them and love them.  We are so grateful to be part of hastening the work.