Sunday, October 18, 2015


The neighbors are making our street look festive.

Halloween is just around the corner. Our calendar is marked for the big Trunk-N-Treat on October 23rd at the LDS church building. With the coming of this not-so-special holiday is the realization that Elder Packham and I only have two more months to serve on this mission. Many people have asked if we are excited to go home. My answer is the same every time, "Yes, no, yes, no". Yes, because we hardly recognize the grandchildren that are growing up without us at home. No, because the people we love in Indiana are going to grow up and old without us here. In that respect, we are absolutely, definitely, positively NOT getting "trunky" (restless, antsy; eager to leave or go home...possibly referring to "packing one's trunks"). In fact, we are stressed because there is so much work to be done...and so little time.

Trunky?  No.  Like Treats? Yes.

I am not going to write about "trunks" today. Instead I want to describe the many wonderful people we have become acquainted with as missionaries. Let me tell you about them in a silly, trick-or-treat fashion.

The County employees are Smarties because they really know what they are doing.
Good friends are M & M's because we go places together.
The volunteers at the warehouse are All Day Suckers because they persevere in a hard day's work.
Fellow musicians are Tootsie Rolls, because they toot their French Horns.
Our brothers and sisters in the Addiction Recovery Program (ARP) and at the US Penitentiary (USP) are Lifesavers because we have learned about the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
The ward members are Laffy Taffy because they bring us smiles and hugs.
The ancestors of Indiana are Almond Joys because we are happy to be involved in Family History.
The young Elders and Sisters are Starbursts because they never seem to run out of energy.

We love them all and consider them "treats" in our lives.  How did this happen?

As Record Preservation Specialists we have encountered a few problems.
The latest is the discovery of black, foreign particles in the documents
that causes coughing and sneezing.  "Who is that masked man?"

As we stated in an earlier blog, a standard mission call contains a statement that our areas of responsibility may change from time to time depending on the needs of the mission and at the discretion of the mission president.  As we initially accepted the assignment to be Record Preservation Specialists, we were oblivious to the many hats we would be wearing.  I guess, as long as a person is willing, the Lord can use your hands in unexpected ways.

Both Michael and I have especially discovered a great love for those in the ARP and USP work.  Because of confidentiality I can't disclose names or personal situations.  I don't dare take photos to post, but maybe an explanation of the ministry at the USP will be insightful.

Main entrance to the United States Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana. 

The USP is located only a few miles from our apartment.  When we arrive, we are kindly greeted by several Chaplains and escorted through tight security.  On Sunday mornings, a large Protestant service is held along with a smaller Catholic group and our LDS meeting.  We have about an hour to set up and get ready.  Three men attended our services the first week, four last week, and four this week.  All in all, we have met six men, three of whom are members of the Church.

We begin with an opening hymn.  Very few of the men know the tunes, but they are not ashamed of their singing voices.  They are willing to pray.  Even though their wording is different than mine, they are very sincere.  We are not allowed to take the sacrament to the prison, but we felt it was needful to have a portion of the meeting devoted to this sacred ordinance.  We sing a sacrament hymn and read a scripture, usually the sacrament prayers that are found in the Doctrine and Covenants.  Then we allow them a minute of pondering on our relationship with Jesus Christ.  

Meeting with the young Elders and Sisters in members' homes
usually involves a real treat.  In this case is was persimmon pudding.
Very tasty.

Last week we gave the men an assignment to come prepared to share a favorite scripture.  This morning, everyone that knew of the assignment was prepared.  One inmate had a different version of the Bible, but as he finished reading, I turned to my King James Version, found the verses in Timothy and showed him I had already underlined them.  We then had a discussion on the Restoration of the gospel and the Joseph Smith story.  Last week, we talked about Nephi, the power of prayer and trusting in God's perspective.  Next week we plan on discussing the Book of Mormon.  We end with our testimonies, another hymn, and prayer.   Our meeting lasts an hour.  

Michael has had many wonderful opportunities to mingle with
fellow musicians in community performances.

 It has been amazingly easy to look past their tattoos and outward appearances and see them as sons of God who are trying to make their way back.  I've reflected on this morning's service.  Maybe I shouldn't have said it, but I did. At the end of our meeting, I remarked that I had only known these men a few weeks, but that I had grown to love them as brothers.  I truly meant it.  I felt a portion of the Savior's love for them, and had to express it. 

I'm not trunky right now because I'm savoring the tasty treat of love.  Relationships, seeing people come closer to Christ and having them feel HIS love, that's a treat that can come into anyone's life.  President David O. McKay, one of our church's leaders has said:

“True Christianity is love in action. There is no better way to manifest love for God than to show an unselfish love for your fellow men. This is the spirit of missionary work” (Gospel Ideals [1954], 129). 

A recent convert's ordination to the Aaronic Priesthood

In two months, when I do get home, I hope I can remember the lessons learned as a missionary: to reach out to those outside of my comfortable, little world.  There's a real possibility I can meet amazing souls.  There's no trick about's the truth.

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