Sunday, February 28, 2016

This is home. We live on the 12th floor on this side of the building.

Another beautiful weather week has passed. Where is the snow and rain?! We had a very brief snow flurry yesterday, then a little bit of rain before the sun came out and then back into the mid 40s. No coats were needed today when we went to church.

On Monday we enjoyed another invitation to have dinner with some members of the ward, the Laycocks. Bro. Laycock is an artist and has made a very good living at it, of course because he is very good at what he does, - primarily landscapes. He sells his paintings through a variety of art galleries in Canada and elsewhere. He and his wife served a mission in Australia and returned just a few months ago so we had much in common to talk about. Dinner was wonderful and we were given a tour of their home and the art studio.

We are enjoying the ward we live in. It is an "older" ward for the most part; not many youth as young families cannot afford homes in this part of Calgary, but because there are a number of apartment buildings within the ward boundaries we have quite a few young couples and they enjoy being together. Thus the ward is mostly made up of a younger group and an older group, the older group having children who are away at college or have married and moved to other parts of the city or have moved away from the area.  Our building is shared with a Spanish speaking ward and another English speaking ward. We have the middle time block so our meetings run from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

President Miles father passed away during the week. It was not unexpected as his father has suffered from marked dementia for quite some time and his passing was considered pretty much a blessing. Typically mission presidents stay in the mission until their term of service is complete and such was the case with President Miles. Sister Miles returned home to be with the family. She returns tonight. She delivered his written talk for him at the funeral. As we have mentioned before, the Miles are great friends of ours from well before our missions and we were happy President Miles was able to come to our apartment and spend last evening with us and have dinner. He related that he was able to take part in all the proceedings via FaceTime and other media; - not quite like being there but perhaps the next best thing. We love President and Sister Miles and enjoy serving with them.

Friday night we went to the Calgary Temple again, this time with both of the couples with whom we serve in the mission office. We enjoyed a fun meal together at Chili's on our way there. By the time we got there, the session was full so we did sealings. Going to the temple is a great way to end our work week.

I have one funny event to relate: the two Zone Leaders who work in the southern part of British Columbia were working with the missionaries who live in Trail, BC. When they were finished with their work, because Trail is so close to the U.S. border, they decided they would cross the border into the U.S. just to take a picture of the border crossing from the U.S. side. That is when the "fun" started. Leaving one's mission is definitely against the rules but they did it anyway so that was the first mistake. Apparently they didn't have any difficulty crossing into the U.S. having U.S. driver's licenses, but when they attempted to return, they were turned away as they didn't have their passports with them. To make matters worse (as they related to the mission office when they called in a panic), "Since we are both brown they didn't believe our story" (one is Hispanic and the other is a Polynesian), The border patrol was not buying their story about why they needed to get back into Canada. We had to FAX a copy of their passports to the border patrol and after many phone calls and successfully passing some sort of background investigation the Border Patrol finally let them cross back. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on one's point of view, they related their stunt to others and the word of this is spreading throughout the mission. They will never live this down, but it will serve as an effective warning to the other missionaries to not try this. Rules exist for a reason; but every now and then someone thinks the rules don't apply to them and they end up regretting the poor decision when it turns agains them.

We have received an additional new vehicle, a Chevy Colorado crew cab pickup. This will replace another Colorado coming out of the fleet due to high mileage. Also, in a conversation with the Regional Fleet Manager in SLC, we jointly decided to order five more Nissan Rogues which will ultimately replace five of our higher mileage cars in several weeks when they arrive.

Well, that's it from me but I will pigtail some of what Kathy wrote recently to family and friends as her perspective is different from my own with her work. So what follows are Kathy's words:    


On the way to and from the Calgary Temple we pass the Olympic park where we can see the ski jumps and some of the skiing hills – quite a sight at night when they are lit up.  (Calgarians take their quadrants very seriously.  Every address has either NW, SW, SE, or NE at the end of the street address.  And the postal codes!  Oh my!  They’re very important, but I’d hate to be a mailman.  There is a unique postal code for a small section of a neighborhood, like 5 or 6 houses.  The postal code is always letter, number, letter, space, number, letter, number, or vice versa.  For example, the mission office, where we get all of our mail, has the postal code T2H 0T2.  The actual address is (name), Canada Calgary Mission, 7044 Farrell Road SE, Calgary, AB T2H 0T2.  See?  And the mail is SLOW.  We joke that once it hits the border, it’s delivered by turtle.  Letters can take two weeks to get here.  A couple of missionaries are STILL looking for their Christmas packages.)
I thought maybe it would be interesting for you to see what a typical week is like for us here in Calgary.  Remember that the rules are VERY different for senior couples than they are for the young missionaries.  President Miles told us when we first arrived that our primary hours to serve are from 8:30 to 5:00 at the office.  Of course, there are times when we are there late, or are helping with other things, but we basically have office hours.  We wake up at 6:00 a.m.  Evan goes into the parkade (parking garage) three days a week and walks/runs while I am on the bike (every day) in the apartment.  Most of the time he comes back and rides the bike to cool down while I am in the shower.  We fix and eat breakfast, pack a lunch, and head for the office at about 8:15 (unless I’m running late – haha). 
At the office, we begin with a devotional.  There are between 4 and 6 of us there on any given day.  We have a song, a prayer, and a spiritual message to start our day.  Then we discuss anything major that needs to be taken care of that day and then we get to work.  Mondays we have a meeting with President and Sister Miles where we discuss concerns and coordinate with them.  They mostly work in their office at the mission home where they live.  There are simply too many interruptions when they come into the office.  But they are always available by phone, text or email.  As I’ve told you before, Evan is in charge of the fleet of cars, and that is a full-time job!  I can hear him groan when the phone rings and Sister Peppinger says to the person on it, “One moment.  I’ll get him for you”, because it seems like 4 out of 5 times, “him” means Evan, and it’s a car problem!  Right now he’s trying to take a few cars out of the fleet and replace them with new cars, which is a big deal!  The problem is, the number of missionaries in the mission keeps fluctuating, as most of the time nowadays we have “visa waiters” – missionaries from Canada who can’t get their visas into the U.S. and need to start their missions.  We love these visa waiters and it’s sad to see them leave, but they’re always really excited to go where they were originally called to go.  Right now we have 8 visa waiters, though this week three of them have received their visas and will go with the next transfer of their assigned mission (oops, one left yesterday).  Anyway, they need to live somewhere and also need to have transportation, so that is always a concern for the president and for Evan.  Most of the time they are assigned to a “three-leg”; in other words, instead of two companions serving together, there are three.  It keeps things interesting, for sure.  I have some opinions about why they can’t get their visas, but I think I’ll keep them to myself. L
I have a variety of responsibilities.  As I’ve said before, I take care of hotel reservations, reserving buildings for zone conferences, arranging luncheons with Relief Societies, some of the President’s correspondence, etc.  I’m also in charge of referrals.  The Church has a great computer system where if someone expresses interest in the Church in any aspect on the internet, they send the pertinent information to the correct mission, and then the referral person finds the right missionaries and sends them the information.  I can get a referral, the computer tells me which area the person lives in, along with the missionaries serving there (unless there is an error in the address, in which case I have to “dig”), I get everything ready on my end and “click” – it’s sent to the missionaries.  They receive a text with all the information they need (unless there’s additional information which I will then either send in another text or a phone call), and they can contact them that same day.  The missionaries love it! 
My other big responsibilities are the newsletter (which goes out just before a transfer – usually every 6 weeks, though sometimes it’s 5 and sometimes 7), and the mission history.  I’m working on the history right now.  It’s ironic, because I wasn’t even here in 2015, so I have no idea what happened then, but I guess it’s like compiling someone’s history when I do family history.  I just have to dig and get the information from those who were there.  It’s coming together, and I’m learning a lot more about Microsoft Word and Publisher!!!  The next transfer is next week, so I published The Harvester (newsletter) and distributed it yesterday. 
We also help the missionaries who come into the office for supplies, to turn in receipts, or to get mail or an encouraging word.  They’re great!  We have a large closet filled with supplies in many languages.  We have missionaries in this mission who speak English (the majority), Spanish, and Mandarin.  But the missionaries call requesting literature in so many different languages.  Lately we’ve seen a large number of requests for Tagalog, Arabic, French, etc.  Calgary is truly another “melting pot”, and you meet people from everywhere!  As part of the mission history, I compiled lists of the baptisms during 2015.  One third of those baptized were born outside of Canada!  We work hard, and by the time we head home at 5 or 5:30, we’re pretty bushed!  Usually it’s all we can do to pull together some dinner and then either read, write or watch something on TV.  We also try to do a small load of laundry most evenings.  Usually once a week we make a Costco run to get our fruit, milk, and other supplies (not much with this tiny apartment), or we go to one of the supermarkets for smaller items.  Friday evenings we try to go to the temple with the Peppingers, though it was closed the first two weeks of February. Saturdays are our day to sleep in (!), do laundry, clean the apartment, write letters, sometimes go shopping, and whatever else we find time for. We find that we NEED to do something for a change of pace.  Last weekend we found the cheap theater, so we went to a movie.  We just need to chill for a day!  Sunday is filled with choir practice (yep, we’re singing), church, and whatever else.  We have been invited to dinner at the homes of a couple of families in the ward.  They’re our age, and it’s nice to have new friends in the ward.
That’s pretty much our lives right now.  It’s a lot of work, but it’s also fun, most of the time.  We love all of you! 
Finally, I will include a nice picture looking at downtown Calgary from across the Glenmore Reservoir. We will be back to take a similar picture when the trees are out and the ice is gone. 

Have a wonderful week.
Evan and Kathy

Sunday, February 21, 2016

From the desk of the Car Czar.

Another week has come and gone, and WOW! we are at the two month point. The time has certainly gone quickly.

This week was busy with entering the results of the car inspections mentioned in our last blog. This car inspection is done by the Zone Leaders, and, I have to say, their perspective is a bit different from my own. The inspection forms show a black box where items that failed the last inspection were noted; so, despite instructions, most of these boxes were largely ignored as if to say, "Oh, this item has already been done. I don't need to look at this item." In any case, there were some problems revealed in the boxes that were checked and by the occasional helpful description as provided by the more critical inspectors, so much of my time this week has been spent on the phone arranging oil changes, headlight or tail light bulb replacement, replacement tires, and in some cases, body and fender work. Noted on several cars was a cracked bumper. For most of these, the cause and effect is pulling into a parking stall and not stopping completely until the bumper hits frozen snow. Crunch! This turns out to be a costly repair since replacing the entire bumper is usually required to fix it.

Kathy has been busy entering the gas receipts for each car for January. The gas receipts and the car kilometer readings documenting distances traveled are mailed into the mission office each month and are due by the 7th of the month. Some do not get to the mission office in a very timely manner, - some times because the missionaries have forgotten to send them and have to be reminded, but sometimes due to the slow postal system. While we can be critical of the U.S. postal system, the Canadian system leaves much to be desired. This is especially true of mail sent from the U.S. to missionaries serving here. First of all it is very expensive, but sometimes the mail takes two to three weeks from the time it was mailed to get to its destination. Kathy is also busy compiling the 2105 mission history. This is a difficult task for someone who wasn't here through much of the year and, therefore, didn't know of many of the things of note that have happened. Nevertheless, she has it well in hand and has been successful in gathering facts and pictures and stories of much of what has transpired.  

On Friday Kathy and I had a break in the day-to-day office routine; we drove a new Nissan Rogue south to some Fort Macleod Sister missionaries whose car needed replacing. We carried two tires in the back, which, upon arrival in Fort Macleod got moved to the vehicle we were there to replace. We then, in the "old" car, continued eastward into Lethbridge where we met the missionaries needing the two new tires. Now, sans tires, we picked up an unfortunate Sister who had sustained a fall onto her left arm resulting in a fracture to her humerus (the bone between the elbow and the shoulder). Three days previously she had had surgery to repair the bone (plates and screws). Yesterday she flew home to the Phoenix area to recover. She was just two weeks away from the end of her mission; this is not at all the way she planned to return home, but what a great spirit she has. After a lengthy nap in the car, she told us of some of the wonderful things she had experienced while serving. One of the great blessings of serving is the office is getting to personally know so many of the wonderful Elders and Sisters and hearing of their experiences. Such was the case with this wonderful Sister whom we had not previously met.

After dropping this Sister off at the Mission President's home, we got back to the office just in time to go with Elder and Sister Peppinger to the Calgary Temple. It has been closed for two weeks for some maintenance. It is such a nice way to close out the work week so we look forward to going. Ordinarily we stop on the way to the temple to have dinner, but, given Kathy and my late arrival back at the office, we only had time to stop at a Subway.

And speaking of dinner, we had a lovely dinner at the home of one of the members of our ward this evening. He serves as a sealer at the temple. He and his wife are looking forward to being able to retire soon (he is an executive at one of the large banks here in Calgary) and serving a mission as well. They invited both us and the Peppingers and we had a wonderful roast beef dinner followed by a very interesting discussion of the different ways Canada and the U.S. approach health care, immigration, elections, and other issues. Canadians as a rule, have a great interest in what the U.S. does and are particularly interested (as well as amused) with the present Presidential debates and the selection process.

Before I finish, I'll include a couple of pictures Kathy took during the week, one from tonight's dinner, and one from the mission office. The office setting below is where we start each day with a short devotional attended by all who work in the office.

Before closing, I want to say how blessed we are and how much we are enjoying the work. We work with some really great people and love the missionaries whom we serve. May the Lord bless you and your families in all you do this week.

Love, Evan and Kathy

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Greetings from tropical Alberta.

We have now had two weeks of rather warm weather considering the area where we live. The snow is pretty much gone and none has replaced it. The temperature has climbed into the upper 30s and low 40s (F) on most days. Snow falls to the west of the Canadian Rockies and in the mountains but then the moisture fades away before it reaches Calgary. This last storm was eagerly awaited by farmers and ranchers but it pushed up and over our area and into Edmonton; all we got was thick fog.

And already I am talking about the weather...; this suggests that nothing terribly out of the ordinary happened since last week's blog entry and that is true. Only three damaged vehicles remain from the flurry of slick road related accidents last month. Two cars will be returned to the fleet early next week leaving just the one, and this one is only awaiting a part to be finished; so, knock on wood, we may actually have a period of time when we have no cars in the shop. It is much easier to just have to deal with oil changes, tire replacements, cracked windshields, and other assorted routine matters. As I stated in the last blog post, I need to get 4-5 higher mileage cars ready for sale. This requires moving some car assignments around and getting these cars here to Calgary so they can be detailed, tires replaced if necessary, and otherwise fixed as needed. I have a list of some 25 people who have called and indicated they are interested in a mission car so moving the cars won't be a problem. These cars are sold "as is" at prices that the Area Fleet Manager in Salt Lake City and I will determine. Mission cars are considered a good buy as they have had regular servicing, and because car problems have been dealt with as they happen.

President and Sister Miles are busy doing quarterly interviews. This occurs mid-way between the quarterly Zone Conferences. Interviews are different from Zone Conferences. While Zone Conference gathers all of the missionaries in the zone together for a group meeting, interviews provide the opportunity for the mission president to sit down, one-on-one, with each of the 200+ missionaries to assess their progress, hear their concerns, and provide guidance and encouragement where needed. Among the many assignments Kathy has is the responsibility for setting up all the necessary arrangements for these interviews and for Zone Conferences. This includes arranging lodging for President and Sister Miles in the various places, reserving dates and spaces in the Stake Centers, and arranging with and through the various Relief Society Presidents for preparing and serving the noon meal for the missionaries and Pres. and Sis. Miles. These gatherings also provide an opportunity for the mission vehicles to be inspected. Each companionship having a vehicle arrives and parks in a predesignated spot by backing into the spot and raising the hood. The required documentation for the inspection is placed on the front seat of the car which includes the keys, the gas card, and the envelope containing the registration, insurance certificate, accident reporting requirements, etc., and the odometer log book. Special attention is paid to items that failed the last inspection. This inspection is performed by the Zone Leaders at the quarterly interviews and by Kathy and I at the quarterly Zone Conferences. The Zone Conference in March will be our first. Kathy will get to sit in the front seat of our car where it is nice and warm and comfortable and record the inspection findings while I go from car to car out in the weather. Hopefully it will be nice weather!

Speaking of March, Kathy and I will be returning to Utah for a week or two sometime in March when Kathy's daughter, Kristi, has her baby. While in Utah we have a whole list of things we will need to do including doctor visits, prescription renewals, dry cleaning (way, way expensive here in Canada), cleaning house, income tax, etc. The problem is scheduling since baby's don't come with a definite timetable in hand. Fortunately we have an experienced couple prepared to step in and perform the Zone Conference car inspections should we be unable to do so. It is nice to have backup. This is so because one of the couples we work with in the office is a local couple, the Sefciks.  They covered the car fleet duties from the time the previous Fleet Coordinator left and our arrival in Calgary. Elder Sefcik's primary duties include housing issues such as rental contracts, apartment furnishings, utilities, and apartment supplies, etc. Sister Sefcik handles ordering and receiving mission supplies, baptism records, name tags, etc. They work 3 1/2 days a week in the mission office. They also are temple workers. Elder Sefcik is a retired attorney and between he and his wife know everybody so they are a great resource. Their service will end in the Fall and they will be greatly missed.  

Sorry I don't have any pictures to include this week. Maybe next week.

May the Lord bless you all is our prayer. We have so many wonderful friends, neighbors, and family members who are suffering from health issues and a myriad of other problems. Please know you are all in our prayers.

Love, Evan and Kathy

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Well, Superbowl is over, Denver fans are cheering (including me!), and all it right with the world.

Our Chinook season is continuing. I say season for we have had two weeks of Chinook type weather and our snow is nearly all gone. El Nino is alive and well and affecting weather this far north as well. We are enjoying the weather but have real concern about the lack of moisture in this region. The number of accidents involving our vehicles have dropped to zero in the last three weeks and nearly all of the vehicles involved in accidents are now repaired so, knock on wood, we are in good shape.

This week has gone by quickly. One of the highlights for me was the arrival of two more of our Rogues at the Nissan dealership. We now have four new AWD Rogues; two have already been assigned to areas in British Columbia where snow is a bigger challenge. We are also anticipating a Dodge Caravan and a Chevy Colorado sometime during the next two weeks. This pushes the number of vehicles in our fleet to 90. Our allotment is 86 so four vehicles have to come out of the fleet, be prepared for sale, and sold. I have a list of about 20 people who have already indicated they want one of them so moving them out will be no problem. I will work with the Fleet Headquarters in SLC to determine a price and then arrange for them to be detailed and sold. This will be my first experience in this aspect of my job so will work closely with the Area Fleet Manager to make sure this goes as it should.

On Tuesday evening all of the office mission staff got together for dinner at a popular Italian restaurant. They have a half-price special on Tuesday nights. The food was great so it may become a regular thing. The Calgary Temple is closed for two weeks for maintenance so we did not get to visit the temple and go to dinner afterward; we did the dinner outing on Tuesday instead. On Friday evening Kathy and I visited the huge mall in our area, the Chinook Mall. They have a very interesting sculpture in the entrance which is made up of a lot of gears and other assorted junk car parts. I will include a few pictures of it at the end of the blog.

We have had to deal with some fraudulent phishing incidents involving gas cards assigned to some of our mission vehicles. On three different occasions we have had a call from Bank of America, the card company, telling us that the card numbers were used for small purchases in far away areas such as Virginia, Texas, and New York. We are not sure how the thieves get the card numbers; perhaps randomly or from a list and then an attempt is made to make a small purchase to see if the charge goes through, and if so, this would be followed by a large purchase; however, in each case B of A has cancelled the card and notified us of the activity. We have accounted for the card in each case so it is not a case of card theft. I shudder to think of how many other attempts might be made. In each case we have to obtain a new card and PIN to replace the cancelled card and this takes about two weeks in each case which is proving to be a real nuisance.

We love the work we are doing and the opportunity we have to work with such outstanding young missionaries. We hope you will all have a truly great week. The promised pictures follow.

Love, Evan and Kathy