Sunday, July 31, 2016

We are in love with Calgary summers........

Wow, can you believe it; the temperature in Calgary climbed all the way to 84 degrees this week. That's for all you stateside people who are basking in the 100 degree plus heat. I can't say enough about how much are enjoying summertime here in Alberta. If we could figure out a way to have healthcare coverage in Canada, we would spend each and every summer here. Lovely!

I am writing this on Saturday evening from our timeshare in Canmore. We have had a wonderful weekend being out and about. We left the office a bit early, on Thursday. We first drove to Okotoks to see a missionary with a sprained ankle (fortunately, nothing appears to be broken). Afterward we had dinner in Okotoks and then continued on our way toward Canmore passing through some incredible meadows surrounded by aspen and pine. At one point we drove through a brief downpour and as we passed again into the sunlight, we looked back and could see a beautiful rainbow over the area we had just passed through. From there we drove on through occasional showers until we arrived at our destination in Canmore. I will include a picture taken last Spring of where we go. We are so fortunate to have this available to us so near by to enjoy.

WorldMark Timeshare in Canmore
As you can tell from our blog posts, we have a hard time staying away from the mountains. After a busy week in the office we love to head for the foothills or deep into the mountains and visit the branches and wards of the Church. Yes, we do stay busy in the office but we suspect you find it a bit boring when we tell you of things we do in the office as we have previously shared the work we do, so I will move on to our weekend activities, which we hope you find interesting. This weekend we are again in the Banff National Park and will go to the Banff Branch of the Church on Sunday. Banff is just a bit further into the Canadian Rockies from Canmore.

Mountains between Canmore and Banff
We had an enjoyable day sightseeing on Friday and did so again today.

View overlooking Banff City from Mt. Norquay

Today's adventures, however, were highlighted, not by amazing vistas, but by being able to watch our twin grandsons open their mission calls. This was done via live video on Facebook. Daughter, Tana, their mother, let us know that the envelopes had just arrived and of the plan to share the moment with family and friends. It was wonderful to be able to share in this great event. Ethan is going to the New York Rochester Mission and Jonah is going to the Los Angeles Mission, - great news, but here is the big surprise; they will both go to the MTC on October 5th where they will learn ASL and serve as ASL missionaries. They are not new to signing; having some background in ASL has obviously played a role in their selection to be ASL missionaries. For those who don't know, they have a teenage sister who is deaf, and they have two Down Syndrome little sisters who communicate best with signing. Dad, Curtis, is an audiologist and their mother is a speech therapist and are both trained in ASL Older brother, Joshua, is majoring in Audiology at BYU and signs, so ASL is already in Ethan's and Jonah's blood. If you would like to share in the opening of their mission calls, go to Tana Whicker's Facebook page and scroll backward until you come to the big event.

Later this afternoon we were able to meet with all five senior couples serving in our mission. We had a wonderful potluck dinner with them and a nice visit. I will share a picture of the group and the view from the back lawn of the Banff Branch building where we met.

From L to R; Elder & Sis. Thorley, Elder & Sis. Sonntag, Elder & Sis Peppinger, Elder & Sis Gardiner,
Sis. Shields (Elder Shields is the photographer and unfortunately not in the picture). 

View to east from back lawn of Banff Branch Bulding

Sunday additions:

Also of note this weekend, - my grandniece, Shelly McRoberts, took part in the Miss Teenage USA pageant held in Las Vegas. She is the reigning Miss Teenage Wyoming. While she didn't win the national title, I'm sure she is not thinking much about it as the uppermost thing on her mind is her approaching marriage happening this week on August 6th. She is also about to celebrate a birthday, sooooo, way to go Shelly; we are proud of you and the example you set in modest fashions worn at the pageant. If interested in her participation in the pageant, go to her Facebook page and see what a beautiful young lady she is. She represented Wyoming very well.


We are back home now in Calgary. We got here just ahead of a downpour with some pea-sized hail mixed in, and lots of lightning and thunder. From our vantage point on the 12th floor, we love to see the thunderstorms roll in, do their thing, and move on. As we look into the distance toward the mountain, it looks like there is another storm bearing down on us as the one we just experienced moves on east.

Approaching storm

The storm which just passed. 

Have a lovely week.

Love, Evan and Kathy

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Another very busy "transfer week"................

 24 July 2016

I have covered the details involved with transfer week in other blogs so I won’t go into any great detail this time except to say that it is always a challenge; a challenge for planning and organizing given the myriad of details involved, and then it is a challenge putting that plan into motion. Nothing ever goes perfectly according to the plan.

On Monday of transfer week, as usual, we met with President and Sister Miles and the APs and in that meeting we looked at the numbers coming to the mission and the numbers going home. In the week prior to transfer week the President has already considered the changes he feels are needed for redistributing the missionaries and needed changes in existing companionships. The focus for our Monday meeting is logistical planning; transportation, car assignments, housing and furnishings needs, phones, etc. This translates into some missionaries going from the north mission to the south mission and vice versa. In the end we picked up 18 incoming missionaries at the airport on Tuesday and had 9 missionaries returning home on Friday (we had a couple of missionaries already return home that would have been in this returning group). Sixteen missionaries went south and 15 came north. Despite having a few of our missionaries return home for various reasons earlier, the net gain was again greater than the net loss. Three new areas were opened and there were boundary changes in some existing areas. As for cars, the increase in missionary numbers meant all available cars are now back in service including the ones we had plans to sell.

We need additional cars in order to take the ones due to be sold out of service. Since the Church buys its cars directly from the manufacturers, we are having to wait until the 2017 cars become available before we will get any replacement cars. I learned during the week that we now have a few more hail-damaged cars in the fleet from some of the severe storms seen in the past couple of weeks.

Yesterday Kathy and I returned to the historical village near here called Heritage Park. We mentioned in a previous blog that there was so much to see we decided to get a full year pass. We spent several hours there yesterday and again enjoyed it. We were able to see parts we hadn’t seen the first time, and we still have some things to see so will return again sometime soon. I will include a few pictures.

Early settlers lived in sod huts; cool in summer, warm in winter - all good, but roof leaked badly when it rained. 

First Calgary Hospital - actual building - brought to Heritage Park and restored.

Burns Barn - from Southeast Calgary feedlot. Beef production made Patrick Burns Calgary's first millionaire. 

Restored fire station from Cochrane, AB. Cochrane is north and west from Calgary. 

Actual parsonage from early 1900's in Calgary. 

Restored early Calgary Printing Shop. Presses and typesetter are working presses.

The weather remains so incredibly beautiful (daytime high temperatures of 72-80 degrees) that we are getting out as often as we can to see the sights. We are planning to return to Canmore next weekend so will have something to say about that in the next week’s blog. Today it was nice to be back in our local ward. 

We are well and happy and hope this is true for all of you as well.

Love, Evan and Kathy

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Maybe we need to build an ark...........

July 17, 2016

This area went way too long with hardly any moisture and the wheat and other crops were in jeopardy. No longer. We have had significant rain every day for the past two weeks, and just in time to add some drama to the week of the Calgary Stampede.  To add to the drama, on Tuesday we were deluged with white stuff, not snow but copious amounts of pea-sized hail. This was followed by about a half inch of rain in an hour. The water floated the hail into the low places and those areas accumulated unbelievable amounts of hail. It looked for all intents and purposes like snowdrifts. Traffic was backed up all over south Calgary due to pools of water across the roads. I’ll include a picture we took of some of what was left when it was time to close the office and go home.


On Monday evening we had tickets to the Calgary Stampede Chuck Wagon Races and the Grandstand Show. This was my third time seeing them and it rained each of the three times. Based on that experience, we purposefully chose tickets that would place us under the partial grandstand roof and it was a good thing we did. In the first picture below you can see the approaching storm. The overhead cover meant that we stayed dry and warm throughout and had a great time at the Stampede together with our office mates, Elder and Sister Peppinger. Prior to the Grandstand Show we also saw a dog show and a performance by the Peking Acrobats, and, of course, had to sample some of the food available on the midway.

There were 8 different heats of the Chuck Wagon races and, as the rain continued, the races got more and more wild with the wagons sliding and fish tailing through the required turns on the rodeo grounds, then all four teams hit the entrance to the race track at nearly the same time. From there the teams of horses are running at full gallop as they go around the racetrack. I won’t go into detail here but the race also involves a team and driver and two other horsemen, - a lead and a trailing rider. There are certain actions that are required before the teams run a tight figure-of-8 around the barrels before hitting the track gate. I encourage you to read about the races on the Internet. I don’t know if Blogger will not allow me to include a video clip of one of the heats that I shot. I will attempt to attach it to a Facebook entry right after the blog. In any case, the picture below shows the race track to the south and you can see the first heat chuck wagons approaching the arena. Also you can see the huge portable stage they tow into place for the Grandstand Show. 

The Grandstand Show is remarkable each year. The show involves lots of music and dancing and aerial acts. The show goes on for 90 minutes or so and then ends with an incredible fireworks display each night. The rain added some beautiful highlights to the fireworks and the colorful bursts reflected off the pools of water. The rain continued on and off all evening but the show went on without any obvious problems. It rained each night for the entire week of the Stampede and the Grandstand Show. 

Work went well this week despite the craziness of Stampede Week. We are gearing up for another transfer week. We are again receiving more missionaries than are returning home. President Miles wants to open up three new areas and this means three more cars are needed so I am taking three of the cars we were readying for sale and putting them back into service. We have 10 cars on order but it will be some time before they will arrive. Since the Church buys directly from the manufacturing plants we are having to wait for the 2017 model cars to become available.

Last night Kathy and I went to see a movie we had been wanting to see. It is called, “Me Before You,” which is about an English girl who is hired to take care of a quadriplegic man. I know, it sounds really boring but it turned out to be very good. We recommend it to you.

Today in our continuing desire to visit wards and branches around the mission, we drove to the Diamond Valley Branch. Diamond Valley is a beautiful valley next to the foothills before you get to the Canadian Rockies. The Branch building sits on the edge of a beautiful meadow at the foot of a mountain that looks very much like the Hill Cumorah. Our missionaries who serve the Branch also serve in the Cimarron Ward and were at the Ward today so we did not get to see them. Anyway, it is a wonderful Branch with a large number of youth. They had just returned from a rappelling event and were excited about it. They have four young men currently out on missions (the Canada Vancouver, Cape Verde Praia, Korea Seoul, and Belgium/Netherlands Missions) with another missionary preparing to leave, whom we met. They have had as many as seven missionaries out at one time serving from the Branch, and this is more than many wards can claim. This speaks to the effort of the youth leaders there. The picture below shows some of the youth taking part in the Church-wide indexing effort that is underway. They were all really into it. 

And, finally, here is a picture of the Branch building and the beautiful surrounding area. 

On our return trip we could see a downpour ahead of us, and as we entered the stormy area, it began to hail, first small hail and then the hail started to really pound the car. We immediately turned around and headed back down the road about a half-mile where we waited until the storm passed to the east and we were able to resume our return home. As we passed through the area, there was an inch or two of hail on the ground. The mission has several hail-damaged cars and we didn’t want to have our car be one of them. I inspected the car as we got back and, luckily; I think we escaped any damage.

Have a wonderful week!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

What a way to spend the 4th of July!

July10, 2016

Our week at the office was pretty routine, so there is not much to tell about except for the way I spent the 4th of July. Fortunately, this weekend was wonderful.

Early on Saturday morning (July 2nd) I received a call while enjoying a morning run on the trail around the Glenmore Reservoir (see my last blog entry for comments about the trail). The call was from the Mission President asking if I would accompany one of our Elders home with a medical problem. I said, “Sure, I’d be happy to,” and then the news came that the travel would be on Monday, the 4th of July. Thoughts of the last time Kathy and I accompanied one of our Sisters home to Salt Lake came to mind where we had about six hours after arriving in Salt Lake to go home and check on things, sort the mail, and meet with family members before it was time to make our way back to the airport for the return flight. Unfortunately, it was not to be on this trip. When I was given the itinerary the Church arranged, the trip to and from SLC was via Seattle so I spent the entire day in airports.

Kathy and I enjoy traveling to different parts of the mission to see the sights, to appreciate where our missionaries are working, and to meet with them. We determined early in the week that we would travel south toward Lethbridge and then west over Crow’s Nest Pass (again) to Southern British Columbia. 

Our route took us past a fascinating place called, “Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump.” Yah, I know; it’s a strange name for a place but here’s the story. 

For hundreds of years before the Indians had rifles and horses, in summer they would drive buffalo over a cliff as a means of harvesting buffalo meat for the severe winter that lay ahead. This at first sounds horrible but when the drive proved to be successful, it was a more efficient way to gather needed meat, hides, etc. for the harsh winter that lay ahead. 

It turns out this was quite a complicated process; keep in mind how hard it is to sneak up on a wary buffalo with your bow and arrows and shoot many buffalo. Also keep in mind that this method was in use before they had horses and rifles. Such a drive would only be successful if the buffalo were in the right place to begin with.

The elaborate process would begin with a special ceremony and the entire encampment would be set up just beyond the cliffs. Then the hard work began. Many of the tribe were assigned to set up piles of rocks and stick trees and bushes down in the rocks which would appear as a barrier to onrushing buffalo. The piles were arranged in a funneling manner first quite far apart on two sides then closer and closer together resulting in a funneling effect as the cliffs were approached. Prior to the drive members of the tribes would hide behind these piles of rock and bushes. Just prior to the buffalo drive all the participants needed to rub themselves with herbs to mask their human scent. The young braves would don hides collected from wolves and circle out around the herd and begin slowly working their way toward the herd. In the meantime, some of the faster braves would don buffalo baby hides and move in between the cliffs and the herd. Buffalo apparently don’t see all that well but have a keen sense of smell and they go nuts when they sense the young buffalo are in danger. As the braves approached the herd from three sides, the buffalo would get restless sensing what seemed to be wolves creeping toward them and they would begin moving away from the “wolves” and toward the “calves”. As they got closer to the cliffs, the “wolves” would begin to move more rapidly toward the herd and the “calves” would also move faster ahead of the herd. As the herd moved in between the piles of stones, it became pandemonium; the wolf skins came off, the tribe hiding behind the piles of stones would suddenly jump up and wave stuff in the air. In the meantime, the “calves” had to be very fleet of foot and just before reaching the cliff, run between the piles of rock as the buffalo ran by and headlong over the cliffs. Waiting well back from the cascading buffalo coming over the cliffs were the women and older children and older men who would rush in to finish off the wounded buffalo. Nothing went to waste except the skull itself. The meat was dried (jerky) and made either into pemmican - pounded into a fine texture then mixed with berries, all of which would sustain them over the winter. The hides were a valuable resource for teepees, blankets, and other uses. The sinews were preserved for sewing the hides together. The bones were cracked and boiled to get the marrow and fat out. Even the hooves and horns were used. The bladders of the buffalo were used to store the fat recovered from the bones.

Now back to the name of the historical site; the “head smashed in” part of the name didn’t come from the fate of the buffalo but from a young Indian who had crawled under the ledge to watch the buffalo come cascading over the edge. He was found among the buffalo carnage with his head smashed in. 


The historical site is an amazing place. It is totally staffed by First Nation personnel from the Blackfoot, Blood, or Peigan tribes that exist in the area and who are descendants of the original tribes in the area. The building is on six levels, all built in an earth sheltered manner back into the cliffs. I will include some pictures. The displays and the movie are remarkable. It is a must see if you are ever in the area west of Ft Macleod, Alberta.

After leaving the historical site (we were there far longer than we had planned to be), we drove through the Crowsnest Pass and Frank’s Slide (which I talked about in a previous blog) and made our way to the B&B where we had a reservation outside of Cranbrook, BC. We checked in and then continued on toward Creston, BC. We had planned to travel on the east side of the Kootenay Lake to where the roads end at Crawford Bay, take the ferry to the other side, then drive on to Nelson to meet the missionaries there, then drive back to Cranbrook via Creston, but it proved to be too long a drive (many hours!) so we drove instead to Creston. We called the missionaries, Elders Bunch and Thackeray, and it turned out they could meet us and let us take them to dinner. They love the area and we could see why; it is incredibly beautiful (like being in a Swiss Alpine Valley) and it so happens that the climate there and all the way up to Nelson is very unique. It is very temperate and they grown incredible fruit there. The cherries are in season and there were cherries hanging in clusters from the trees. There were orchards on both sides of the road as we drove toward Creston. We wanted to buy some cherries as we prepared to return to Cranbrook, and while there were many fruit stands along the road, they appeared to be closed because it was late in the day. The missionaries told us they lived near some members who were in the cherry business and would certainly sell us some. They gave us directions and we drove to a cherry orchard owned by a Bro. and Sister Low. They told us they really hadn’t started to pick the cherries yet due to all the rain they have had recently but would be beginning the harvest the coming week. We learned much about the cherry business from Bro. Low. Cherries are big business there; hundreds of tons are harvested and shipped primarily to China and to Florida. When it rains, the water that pools in the hollow where the stem comes out causes the cherries to split at the top. To prevent this from happening, they hire helicopters to hover over the groves and blow the water off the cherries. There are apparently a number of helicopters that are in the area that can be hired for that purpose. In the end, Bro. Low took us to a refrigerator in his packing house and pulled out a bag of cherries they had picked for their family to eat and insisted that we take the whole bag (probably ten pounds of cherries) and share them with the office staff. They apparently send cherries over to the mission office each year when they can find someone going to Calgary, so we saved them the effort. These cherries are amazing. They are quite large; bigger than Utah cherries, and oh are they delicious! I expressed surprise that they harvest cherries so late in the summer but that is the harvest season for them.

The B&B was nice; close by the St Mary’s River. We enjoyed the stay and the breakfast was delicious. 

There are two wards in Cranbrook and we wanted to attend the Sacrament Meeting for both. We hadn’t told the pair of Elders in each ward that we were coming so it was quite comical when they spotted us. Elder Owens and Elder Sondrup are assigned to the 1stWard, and Elder Manarii and Elder Bryner are assigned to the 2nd Ward. We had a very pleasant visit with them after each of the meetings and met a wonderful investigator Elders Owens and Sondrup are teaching. Afterwards we stopped at a McDonalds and changed clothes before leaving Cranbrook. 

The drive from Cranbrook to Invermere is along a beautiful glacial valley; beautiful mountains and meadows and winding rivers. 

At Radium Hot Springs (just north from Invermere) we turned east and wound through Banff National Park which is magnificent. 
The mountains in the Park are absolutely breathtaking. 

After stopping for gas in Canmore, we continued on home and found all to be well. 

I should mention that the Calgary Stampede events began on Friday and the whole city is decked out in cowboy hats and western dress. We and others from the office will be going to the Grandstand Show and the Chuck Wagon Races tomorrow evening after work so I will have much to say about that in the next blog. The rodeo events each day are in the afternoon so we will not be attending the rodeo. This will be my third time to see the  Grandstand Show and the races; the second time for 

Kathy. Some of you know Kathy and I traveled to Canmore three years ago during our courtship and it was during our stay in Canmore that we got engaged. We traveled on two different days to Calgary, once to see the rodeo and once for the Grandstand Show and the races. We are looking forward to seeing both again. 

Whew, this proved to be much longer than intended so I hope you weren’t bored by the detail. This blog is also a journal of our mission events so that is part of the motivation for some detail.

Have a blessed week.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

"O Canada" and Canada Day

July 3, 2016

Things were pretty quiet in the office this week, in part because of the events leading to and then the celebration of Canada Day, which is officially on July 1st.  More particularly, it was quiet due to the fact that most missionaries were on foot the last week or two of the month. Going to Lethbridge a couple of weeks ago for Elder Nelson’s visit really ate into the total allotment of kilometers that each driving missionary pair had for the month. Once their allotted kilometers were gone they were on foot or on bikes. Somehow that also translated to a lot fewer calls to the office. I had time to continue my efforts to purge old and outdated stuff from the files.

One of my duties here in the mission is to serve as a Mission Medical Advisor (MMA). I should say a few words about that. In each mission the person who has primary responsibility for missionary health is the mission president’s wife (MPW). She is assisted by former health care professionals who are serving in the mission, or by retired medical persons living in the area, but she is at the center of all things health related.

Many missions have people called to that mission with the primary responsibility of assessing the health needs of the missionaries, teaching health and hygiene, keeping track of the medical records of those serving, and by maintaining a list of approved and prearranged facilities where missionaries can be referred for care. Since there is no medical missionary assigned here in the Canada Calgary Mission, Sister Miles, knowing of my past career in medicine, asked that I receive the same training offered to those who are called as health care missionaries. I did this in Salt Lake City prior to Kathy and I going to the MTC. The training focused on acquainting those serving with the Church insurance program, treatment policies, how to arrange referrals, how to use the 24-hour advice line the Church maintains, the purpose of and how to work with Area Medical Authorities (AMAs - physicians who serve to advise a whole cluster of missions), and the variety of problems missionaries have including the mental health issues of depression and anxiety and the many ways these problems are manifest. 

Now more to the point; MMAs and AMAs don’t actively treat the missionaries as patients; rather they see, evaluate, and make recommendations to the MPW (and to the missionary) for treatment, which then, if needed, is arranged with an actual medical clinician in the local area. As implied, not all missionary health complaints require being seen by a local physician. This week, for example, I saw several missionaries at the request of the MPW. One Elder had injured his finger playing basketball on P-Day. No specialist treatment seemed indicated so the finger was splinted and will be watched. A Sister has had knee pain apparently due to increased walking now that nicer summer weather is here. This was found to be a hamstring bursitis and did not prove to be associated with her knee joint. Localized treatment measures, a short course of anti-inflammatories, and some stretching exercises should gradually help her, so no referral to an orthopedist was felt to be needed. Another missionary has numbness and tingling of the arm, either right or left depending on which shoulder he carries his backpack. He should do well by carrying a lighter load and by holding the bag by the hand strap instead of using the shoulder strap (in the military we call this “rucksack palsy”). Another missionary was seen earlier with a complaint of recurrent ingrown great toenails. He was referred to a local podiatrist who performed a toenail reduction procedure.  We are following his progress and healing. And tomorrow I will accompany an Elder home to the Salt Lake airport with some health related problems that are not resolving. (I’ll probably have more to say about the trip in next week’s blog.)

Canada Day is not celebrated with quite as much fanfare as the people in the U.S. celebrate the 4th of July but it is a national holiday so most offices and many businesses were closed. We did keep the mission office open but had few calls. We had Elder and Sister Peppinger join us for dinner here in our apartment that evening and afterward we went up to the 17th floor observation area of our building where we enjoyed the beautiful sunset and view of the downtown area. This would have been a great vantage point to watch the fireworks downtown, but, as the fireworks wouldn’t start until 11:00 p.m. (remember how late it stays light here in the summer), we gave up and called it a night before the fireworks began.  I will include some pictures taken from the observation area.

Yesterdy it was such a beautiful day I decided to take a long run (actually much of it was walking as well) along the southern side of Glenmore Reservoir and around the western end where the Bow River suns into the reservoir, an area called Weaselhead. It is so still and nice except for the sounds of nature and the occasional sound of an overhead jet or helicopter. It will be come a favorite place to run and I hope to eventually make my way all around this very large reservoir, but this will be in stages as the distance is too far for me to attempt to run it in one day. Even by bike it takes hours to go all the way around the reservoir. 

Last night we had a special evening out with President and Sister Miles, the Peppingers, and the Sefciks – all missionary couples with whom we work so closely. The Sefciks are from Calgary and made us aware of a popular local dinner theater called Stage West, so some time ago we picked a night and made reservations for a production called, “Legends of Rock and Roll”. It was wonderful! The dinner proved to be a huge buffet of salads, fruits, meats, fish, poultry, breads, and deserts. The dining room looked onto a large stage where the show took place after an hour or so of eating. The desert bar remained open through the intermission. I will include a few pictures from Stage West  as well.

Today in Church we got to stand and sing all verses of “O Canada”. While I had heard the first verse multiple times before, it was a treat to sing all of the verses and ponder the meaning. Like the “Star-Spangled Banner”, we get familiar with the first verse but the others verses have such great meaning and emotion. Anyway, it was wonderful to sing all of the verses. Truly Canada and the U.S. have been blest nations. The future survival of good and right in both nations is of concern to me. I hope you will join with me in praying and working for reason and right to prevail. I shudder to think of what the next four years will bring since both U.S. presidential candidates are prime examples of greed and corruption; two people who feel that they are above the law. Truly, how did this happen that we have two such horrible choices?! To quote from Alma 60:9-10 – “And now behold, I say unto you, I fear exceedingly that the judgments of God will come upon this people, because of their exceeding slothfulness, yea, even the slothfulness of our government, and their exceedingly great neglect towards their brethren…… For were it not for the wickedness which first commenced at our head, we could have withstood our enemies that they could have gained no power over us.”

Elder Thorley