Sunday, February 26, 2017

Quick trip home and back......

Blog for February 26, 2017

Looking east as we approached our home and Little Cottonwood Canyon

 This will be short as we just returned from a quick trip home. We left on Wednesday at noon and drove to Helena, MT, then on to Sandy on Thursday. We found all well with our home; our great neighbors and friends are doing a wonderful job taking care of it while we are away. Our car had a very dead battery and jump starting it and running it for a while did not provide any juice so I had to get the battery replaced. The battery is original with the car (2010) so it has served us well. Also while in Sandy I got the required emission test and then got the car registered so it is good to go when we return in three months at the end of our mission.

We had snow showers on an off the entire way down and back but, fortunately, there was no real accumulation and the roads were basically clear.  On Wednesday and Thursday the Salt Lake Valley received 6-8 inches, which was just prior to our arrival. Then the first night we were there another 4 inches fell. Despite the snow, the weather was comfortable and the mountains looked particularly beautiful. As many of you know, we live near the mouth of the Little Cottonwood Canyon, which leads up to Alta and Snowbird ski resorts. The road to the resorts was closed for a time on Friday due to an avalanche up the canyon.

Part of the reason for the trip was to finalize our income taxes with our CPA and we were able to get this done and mailed so we feel really good about all the things we accomplished while we were home. We also got to visit with several family and friends and got caught up on all the news and changes.

Daughter Kristi and grandchildren

Today we got away at 7:00 a.m. and made good time so decided to drive all the way through to Calgary. With stops for lunch and gas, we made the trip in a little over 13 hours. We are tired but glad to be back “home” and ready to resume our work tomorrow.

Have a wonderful week!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Its a small world in the Church (see below)

Blog for the week ending on February 19, 2017

Despite Church membership of over 15M, it is still a small world in the Church as the paragraph regarding Sister Willis below proves. This has been proved over and over during our time here in Calgary. 
As mentioned last week, this was to be a busy week, and indeed it was. It was Transfer Week, which involved the arrival of new missionaries, training the new missionaries on local things they needed to know, moving the missionaries whose assigned areas were being changed, and the departure of missionaries at the end of their missionary service. If that wasn’t enough to keep us busy, there was the additional task for me of arranging for the movement of more than a dozen cars about the mission. The new cars needed to be put into service and the older cars needed to be brought here to the mission office to begin the process of preparing them for sale. We are also having to take some cars out of our fleet numbers in order to pare the number down closer to our authorized number. All this creates a logistical nightmare involving assigning drivers and ensuring all cars get to the correct location for the car exchanges, getting the drivers connected with the car they are receiving, ensuring the correct movement of gas cards and keys, logging odometer readings, documenting where each car will be after the exchange, and so on. Then at the end of Transfer Week, all of the car changes have to be logged, keys recovered and accounted for from the cars being taken out of service, and getting a running start on the process of arranging needed repairs. One of the frustrations I run into each time new cars arrive and are placed into service has to do with the fact that, while the cars exist physically, they don’t exist electronically. It takes several weeks for the new vehicles to appear officially in our electronic file so that they can electronically be shown as assigned to a specific area where, in actuality, they are already in service.  The whole process is enough to turn one’s hair grey, but, wait; I’m already grey!

It is tough to say goodbye when these missionaries whom we have grown to love reach the end of their missions and head for home. 

Elder Fullmer, Sister Halliday, Sister Blaser, Sister Tolbert, Sister Merritt, Elder Schank, Elder Hopoi, Elder Nuttall

Fortunately, a few days after they get home, we see “friend requests” show up on Facebook from them, which we generally respond to, and then we get to follow their progress.

Oddly, on Tuesday when I went to the airport with truck and trailer to pick up some of the new missionaries and their luggage, the Mission President had assigned four of the new Sister missionaries to ride back to the Mission Home with me. As we left the airport, as usual, I asked them where they are from. As it turned out, three were from the Washington DC area (Woodbridge, VA, Ashburn, VA, and Laurel MD). I used to work an evening pediatric clinic in Woodbridge, and lived for a time in Laurel, but most interesting of all was the Sister from Ashburn, which is where my daughter, Kellie, and her family lived for several years. I asked her (Sis. Willis) if she knew them. She exclaimed, “Why yes; I used to baby sit Austin and Brady!” Austin and Brady are my grandsons, so it was my turn to get excited.

Sister Willis from Ashburn, VA

 I spent a few hours in the office on Saturday. Generally Saturday is our day off, our preparation day as it were, but there was so much to do I felt I had to put in some time to begin to get caught up. If you follow our blogs each week, you know that Saturday is often a day where we go somewhere we haven’t been to previously or go to see something new or experience something unique to the area. Lately we have been trying some of the ethnic restaurants in the area and this was true on Saturday. We had noticed a restaurant called, Pfanntastic Pannenkoek Haus, and had previously checked it out by driving by. It is a Dutch pancake restaurant, so on Saturday we decided to try it. It was a nice experience. While it is called a pancake house, the pancakes were more like crepes than pancakes. We shared a “savory” pannenkoek which contained hash browns, bacon, onions, cheese. It was very good but was made even better by garnishing it with a small amount of a thick and sweet syrup/molasses available on the table. It reminded me of the Dixie (St. George, Utah) sorghum my parents used to buy; very thick and very strong flavored. For desert we shared another “sweet and savory” pannenkoek served with ice cream and Saskatoon Berries.


We hope to return and try something else on the menu. I commented to Kathy as we returned home and were discussing other restaurants we would like to try, “So many places to eat and so little time…..”

Finally, as we drive to the Calgary Temple each week, we see the progress being made on a HUGE community activities center. We doubt that it will be completed by the time our mission ends but it is something we hope to return to see at some future time. The picture below does not do it justice as it is enormous. It looks like something from outer space and we refer to it as "the mother ship". 

Have a wonderful week! 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Delightful----weather, food, and friends!

For contrast, compare with last week's photo. Much warmer!!

 Wow, warmer temperatures and melting snow as we enjoy yet another Chinook. The warmer temperatures bring with them wet, slushy, and sloppy roads but we’ll take it despite the challenge of maintaining a clean car with all the road spray and splashing slush. We will continue to have above average temperatures for the next several days, As I said, we’ll take it!

We have one rather unfortunate thing happen in the mission this past week. With all the snow we have had (and this was especially so out in British Columbia where this incident happened), a couple of our missionaries thought it would be fun to jump from the back deck of their apartment into the pile of snow below. Unfortunately, the snow didn’t provide much push back as they jumped and one of them drove right through the snow into the ground and broke his femur bone. He ended up in surgery to repair the fracture.

We have received five new Toyota RAV4s with three more to arrive soon. These are intended to replace eight of our higher mileage vehicles (yes, Canadians refer to this as “high mileage” even though the distance and the odometer readings are in kilometers). At the same time, however, these replacement vehicles are just that, replacements. I have been instructed that seven additional vehicles must come out of our fleet to get our vehicle numbers back down to the authorized number, 86. These seven vehicles will not be replaced, so I am struggling with determining which areas will lose cars and become walking areas or return to shared car areas (there are a number of these in our mission where one companionship has the car one week and the other companionship has it the next week). We have known this was coming but were hoping to stall until Spring when the weather would be better. The bottom line, the number of cars having to be moved will be large as it will include the ones coming out of the fleet, the old cars needing to come to the mission office to be sold, and the new cars being placed in the fleet. The logistics of this needs to be worked out ASAP as this coming week is out transfer week.

We will be getting new missionaries on Tuesday and sending the ones completing their missions home on Friday. In between these events, there is the usual Thursday migration as some missionaries will be transferring to the south mission and others coming from the south to the north mission. The picture below is of Kathy and I with two of the ones being affected, Sister Blaser, who is going home, and her companion Sister Melville. It is always sad when missionaries drop by and have pictures taken with us as they prepare to leave, but it is nice to be able to give them a hug and wish them well and invite them to become Facebook friends so we can continue to follow them in their post-mission life.

Sisters Melville and Blaser

 On Friday evening, we were invited by Elder and Sister Sefcik to attend a gathering of High Priests and their wives in the Fish Creek Stake. Elder Sefcik is the High Priest Group Leader in his ward. The event was wonderful; very well organized and very well attended with over 400 hundred in attendance. (We are thinking, “Why doesn’t our stake at home do something like this?”). 

Kathy, Sister Sefcik, Elder Sefcik

The evening began with dinner (delicious roast beef and mashed potatoes, Cesar salad, rolls (actually the Canadian term for rolls is “buns”), gravy, and fruit salad, then banana split cake for desert. The event had a Masters of Ceremonies, who attempted to entertain us with corny jokes but also was there to introduce several musical numbers including ones by a band. Incidentally, the band stayed after the dinner and played for the dancing which followed. It was a wonderful evening.

Over the months we have been here in Canada, we have become very good friends with a local couple, the Swendsons. We have posted pictures of gatherings at their home to which we have been invited. 

Brother Swendson at work

Anyway, Bro. Swendson is retiring soon so that he and his wife can serve a mission. They just received their mission call and will be serving in the North Adriatic Mission where they will oversee humanitarian services in Serbia. That whole area has experienced a huge influx of Syrian refugees fleeing from their homeland due to the ongoing war. Last year the Church spent over 7 million dollars just in Serbia alone for refugee aid. Prior to retirement, Elder Swendson was a senior VP of one of the Canadian banks. He has served as a Stake President, he is a temple sealer, and is the Executive Secretary to the Area Seventy, Elder Spackman. Sister Swendson has likewise had a lifetime of Church service. Certainly the hand of the Lord is directing this call. They are the perfect people for such a challenging mission assignment. Our Christmastime. 

Have a wonderful week!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Blog for February 5, 2017

Quite a different winter than last year……


 Last December as we knew we were coming to Calgary to begin our mission, we were concerned about what the winter would hold. The weather was bitter cold that December as we arrived and we were certain we would turn into Popsicles, but, alas, the weather turned moderate and the remainder of the winter was quite mild. This year has proved to be quite a different experience, - more cold and more snow. It is snowing as I write this and quite cold, but so far we are not Popsicles. Last week I told of the Chinooks that bring warmer weather to the area and we have enjoyed the effects of our recent Chinook which took away most of the December and January snow. Now, with the accumulating snow received over the past few days, we will look forward to the next Chinook.

Work has been busy; I was able to finally to complete the data entry process for the car inspections done in January. Data entry is a laborious and boring part of my job, but the time intensive part of the inspection process is the follow up part, viz., arranging the needed servicing for items revealed through the inspections. This requires communicating with the service facilities and with the missionaries to coordinate schedules, then following up to make sure it all happens according to plan.

I have mentioned in a past blog of the process of ordering and then receiving new vehicles. Nine new vehicles have been ordered; ordinarily, these take about two months before they start arriving. To my surprise, I received a call from Toyota indicating the first of these cars is to arrive on Monday and the others by the 10th of this month. It would have been nice to take a big breath before starting a new round of moving cars about the mission to put the new ones into service and bring the older ones out of service and getting them ready to be sold.

Wintertime driving conditions certainly do add to the accident rates involving our mission cars. We have about a 50:50 mix of our missionaries sliding into others and others sliding into our mission vehicles. Either way, it is a challenge keeping up needed repairs to keep our cars in service. For those who read last week’s blog, I told of someone backing up and into the front bumper of one of our cars. I included a picture of the car as I closed out that blog. This week I will include a picture of the same car being hauled away for repairs. This will give you a mental picture as I describe what comes next.

Big boo boo

 I keep a local collision repair place quite busy with damaged cars from the Calgary area. Similarly, this happens in the Lethbridge and Cardston areas as well and to some extent in the BC part of the mission also. Here in Calgary, I have had to bring a second facility into play in order to keep up. And so it goes. I can truly say, there is never a dull moment in the life of a mission vehicle coordinator!

Kathy likewise has been very busy. In addition to her usual duties (Mission President’s schedule, building scheduling, President’s travel arrangements, handling of medical bills, gas card receipts), she also has responsibility to put together the mission history for the year. This was particularly difficult last year being new to the area and to the mission. She had to reach out and pull in information and pictures from all over the mission despite being new. This year was somewhat easier as she knew who to talk to and what the job entailed. We are looking forward to reading it as it is nearing completion.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
All too soon it will be over, - our mission that is. All three of the office couples are looking with some alarm as the end of our missions approach; the Peppingers in February (are now extending into March), the Sefciks in March, and then Kathy and I in May. We know others will be assigned and will arrive eager to begin, but our concern is that our replacements might arrive after we have left. Couples assigned have usually gone to the MTC for training, but, as was our experience, the training does not prepare one for the myriad of details that the tasks require nor how to make it work under local conditions. It certainly works best to arrive and have a week or two to learn the details from those who have been in the trenches. Tis not a perfect world!

The temple is closed for a few weeks for some upkeep and minor repairs so on Friday evening we went to see the latest Star Wars movie, “Rogue One”. I loved it but Kathy was not quite so enthusiastic. Peppingers went with us and we also went to one of our favorite restaurants nearby the theater, so that was a change from our usual Friday evenings.

From time to time we get an opportunity to have our pictures taken with some of our missionaries as they stop at the office to get mail and supplies. It is always fun to see them. Thursday, Elders Murdock and Smith stopped by. They serve way out in BC and were in Calgary for a Mission Leadership Conference the day before. I will include the picture below.

Elder Smith, me, Kathy, Sis Peppinger, Elder Peppinger, Elder Murdock

 Before I close, may I say how much the Church needs you to step up and volunteer to serve. There are so many ways senior couples can serve and somewhere among these opportunities is the perfect fit for you. Many of you who read this blog (and the blogs of others who are serving couples missions) are in retirement or nearing retirement. Yes, missions are busy and you work hard, but there are few things in life as rewarding and filled with joy as serving with these wonderful young missionaries. We have a message to share with the world, a message the world so desperately needs. The Lord needs you!

Have a wonderful week (regardless of how the Super Bowl turns out; - I am taping it to watch later).

With much love,

Elder and Sister Thorley