And why are they not frozen? Because their hearts are warmed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Welcome to our blog! We hope you enjoy our travels and dialogues as we journey to Anchorage Alaska for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Well, the big news this week is that the Alaska Anchorage Mission is now a digital mission!  All our young missionaries now have I-Pads to use in their proselyting and we are moving into the digital age.  All the missionaries are pretty excited.  They had a wonderful training session put on by Elder Brent H. Nielson of the Seventy and Bro. Kelly Mills, director of the international Mission Training Centers.  It was a short, four hour session of instruction, not in the specifics of how to operate an I-Pad, but in how to do missionary work in the digital age.  It was very inspirational and uplifting.  I am happy to report that I got all the I-Pads, manuals and accessories distributed with only one small hiccup.  Everything went pretty smoothly.

This week we have transfers.   I can't believe it's been six weeks and here we go again!  We only have five new missionaries coming in and nine going home.  It shouldn't be too hectic this time around.  The next two transfers, however, are going to be a mad-house.  Fifteen new elders and sisters coming to the mission (so far) in the July transfer.

Our extra-curricular hours were kind of limited this week.  We did finish walking the Campbell Creek Trail, a total of about 15 miles since we walk each section both directions, going and then coming back to the car.  We followed the creek downstream from NE to SW through the middle of Anchorage.  Next we are going to tackle the Lanie Fleischer Chester Creek Trail, which starts at the Westchester Lagoon (see March 15th post for picture of someone skating on the lagoon.)  and works its way 4 or 5 miles eastward across town to an area near the university where the Campbell Creek Trail starts.  These trails wind through some greenways that are quite pretty in areas, especially now that it's summer.  We don't have any pictures from our walks this week but will try to do better in the future.

We did get out to Potter's Marsh again this week and have a some photos for you from there.

Another shot of a Green-Winged Teal.  He just pulled his head up out of the water.
If you click on the picture, I think you'll be able to see the beads of water on his head.

A Black-capped Chickadee, hiding in the branches of a tree.
 After spending a little time on the boardwalk, we decided to drive down the highway along the side of the marsh.  Toward the south end we came upon an area that had a little more open water.  There were flocks of sea gulls and arctic terns swooping around and landing in the long grasses of the marsh.  All of a sudden they all took off, zipping around and making enough racket to deafen you.  It was then that we saw the bald eagle flying overhead.  Needless to say, they were not enthused about his presence.
The smaller birds really didn't like this guy in their neighborhood, but he wasn't the
least little bit interested.  Just kept going.
Arctic Tern in a classic pose.  If you want to learn more about this amazing bird,
click on this link or paste it into your browser or just look them up on Wikipedia.

Same bird, a little more relaxed.

In addition to all the sea gulls and terns, we saw this pair of mating Red-Necked Grebes.
Another one for the list.
 And one more for the Alaskan wildlife list -- a beaver!  From the boardwalk we could see this little guy, actually not so little, swimming around in one of the channels.  Sister Taylor saw his flat tail but these are the only shots I could get of him.

That's about it for this week.  Oh, we did have a very nice date night on Friday.  We went out to the movie, "McFarland." with two other senior missionary couples (great movie if you haven't seen it!) and then went out for Mexican food and then to Baskin Robbins for desert.  It was a very nice evening out and we really enjoyed the company.

We think about our family and friends back home every day, and miss you all a lot, but wouldn't give up our mission here for anything.  What a great experience and challenge!  And Alaska is just an awesome place!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

As hoped for, we were blessed with a little down time this week.  The first part of the week was pretty routine and then we took Wednesday off as an extra P-day so that we could get some things done that we didn't have time for last Saturday.  On Thursday, though, it was back to driving all over to go along on a couple of doctor's appointments,  We drove to Eagle River and back in the morning, had a couple of hours in the office and then out to Wasilla for a second one.  Got home about 8:00 PM.

Our mission is receiving I-Pads for the missionaries to use in their proselyting.  They have been used in a handful of different missions as a pilot program (including the Washington Vancouver Mission!) and are now being disseminated to others.  Ours is one of thrty missions in the current wave.  Our Mission President traveled to Salt Lake this week for his training.  We received the I-Pads last week and have the training for our missionaries next week.  The Fairbanks Zone will be trained on Tuesday and the rest of the mission will gather here in Anchorage for their training on Wednesday. They'll receive their training in three stages - first will be the initial introduction (and receiving their I-Pads).  A couple of weeks later they'll be trained on the Area Book/Planning app they'll be using and then later they will be trained on social media proselyting.   So I spent all day Friday organizing and inventorying all the I-Pads and getting them ready for distribution.  The whole mission is pretty excited to move into the digital age.

On Saturday we made another trip to Potter's Marsh to watch a few birds.  We were able to identify a couple of new (to us) species and got a few pictures.  The wind was blowing so hard that it was forcing the swallows to land on the railings and we were lucky enough to be right in the middle of a bunch of them.

A shot of part of the boardwalk and marsh.  You can see that there is a creek
(or two) flowing into this side of the marsh.  

A couple of close-ups of the Tree Swallows that were darting around.

This is a Yellow-Rumped Warbler
And this is him looking away.  Just too quick for an amateur photographer.
These ducks are Scaups. The pair on the left are male and female Greater Scaups. The one on the right and below we believe to be a male Lesser Scaup.  The difference is the little flat-top haircut (and some white patch only seen when they are flying.)

An Arctic Tern.  I tried and tried to get him in flight.  Not as hard as catching a Swallow, but pretty close.
 They look really cool soaring over the water and then diving in for their dinner.

No other scenic shots for you.  The city is really starting to green up, though, and all the winter debris is just about cleaned up.  And for some reason we are seeing more moose.  One of them ran across the freeway in front of us the other day.  He had cars swerving all over.  Wish we could have gotten a video of it, they are quite the animals, all legs and no coordination.

This weekend was our stake conference.  We are in the Campbell Park Ward, Anchorage Alaska North Stake. (There is also an Anchorage Alaska Stake - the south end of town.)  In our stake we have 11 wards and 1 branch.  Going to stake conference here is quite an experience.  In addition to the regular wards, we have one Tongan and three Samoan wards.  If any of you still think we lost out by not going to the south pacific, let me assure you that we have the best of both worlds.  We have the south seas right here in the frozen north.

As we walked into the chapel last night for the Adult Session of conference we were greeted by a choir singing prelude music.  It was the ward choir from the Northern Lights Ward, one of the Samoan wards.  Talk about awesome!  They did several hymns, all in Samoan.  The neatest one was How Great Thou Art.  It was incredible!  There were 33 sisters and 19 brothers in the choir and they were perfectly balanced.  No half-hearted singing for the Samoans.  They filled that building.  I haven't heard any other church choirs to match it.  And the Tabernacle Choir doesn't have anything on them when it comes to attire.  The sisters were all dressed in turquoise tops with black skirts, white pearls or beads and many of them had flowers in their hair.  The sister who was conducting was wearing a black blouse and turquoise skirt.  The men were all dressed in black suits with a turquoise tie that matched the sisters' outfits and had on kona nut necklaces.

We had a General Authority visiting for the conference.  Elder Michael John U Teh of the Seventy.  He and his wife are from the Philippines but have lived in Utah for the last couple of years.  He is a very soft-spoken and gentle man who talked to us about sharing the gospel, keeping the Sabbath Day holy, tithing, going to the temple and keeping covenants, among other things.  His wife spoke this morning and talked about their home in the Philippines.  Merci, Ralph and Dixie, you would have enjoyed it.  Dixie, she talked about the mangoes and how, even though some of them are exported to somewhere, you can't find them here.  She also talked about how there are many kinds of bananas but that you can't get them in the U.S.  She said that she took a bite out of "those things" we have here and threw the rest away.  She said, "They're pretending to be bananas."  She talked about how, although they love their home and neighbors in Bountiful, Utah, she misses the Philippines with the swaying palm trees, etc.  She said that while the choirs were singing she could feel the trees swaying. (the Dimond Ward choir sang this morning - another Samoan ward, and yes, that is the correct spelling of Dimond.  It's someone's name.)

We are wishing that we could be in New Mexico this week.  John, our oldest grandson, graduates from high school tomorrow night and leaves for his mission in two weeks.  We are very proud of him, as we are of all our grandkids, but sure wish we could be there to see him walk across the stage and get that diploma.   Trust that we will be cheering from here tomorrow night about 7 pm New Mexico time.

Monday, May 11, 2015

What a week!  I was going to go through it step-by-step for you but have decided that it isn't worth that much trouble.  Suffice it so say that we have been in the Emergency Dept. three times this week, each time at night.  We got to bed at 2:30 AM the first time, 4:00 AM the second time (that was in Wasilla, an hour drive each way) and then at 1:30 AM the last time.  In between all that we had three doctor's appointments, a clinic visit, an MRI and 5 visits to Elders/Sisters in their apartments.  Sleep?  What's that?

We did get a little lull on our p-day (Saturday) and managed to get our apartment cleaned, groceries bought and a quick bird-watching visit to Potter's Marsh at the south edge of Anchorage in between an apartment visit and the last ED visit.  We were able to go to church on Sunday, but Sister Taylor exchanged texts with a sick elder during part of Sacrament meeting and then we left to stay with the sick elder while his zone leaders took his companion to church.

We are a little down tonight.  The elder we spent the most time with last week is going home tonight, in spite of all the efforts to the contrary.  He is a great young man and a hard-working missionary and we are heart-broken that we were not able to help him enough that he could stay.  We really hope that he can get the medical treatment he needs when he gets home and find some relief from his pain.

We did manage to snap a couple of pictures at Potter's Marsh (a bird sanctuary) even though the wind was cold and blowing hard.  We only stayed about 15 minutes.  We'll try again when the conditions are better.  We didn't include any photos of the Mallard ducks and Canadian geese.  They are all over the place and we know what they are. So... for the bird watchers among us -- identify these for us, will you?

We're looking forward to a little down time this week. (Cross your fingers!)  Maybe we'll have some more to share next week.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

No blog last week because we didn't have much to tell/show you.  Now this week we have too much.  At least in the way of photos.

On Monday evening we drove up to the overlook of the city on Flattop Mountain, the most climbed mountain in Alaska.  We didn't climb to the top of the mountain, that was another 1500 feet above the parking lot.  Fortunately for the older, or more infirm, there is a nice overlook just a short hike from the parking lot.  From there you can look out over the entire city and parts of the Cook Inlet and Turnagain Arm.  We timed it just right so that we were there for sunset.

Looking to the West.  The downtown area (with the taller buildings) in on the right.
The city stretches from the right side of the picture to the left and beyond in both directions.
That small lake you see reflecting the sunlight just below the sun is the Lake Hood Floatplane base,
 right next to the Anchorage Airport.

Looking to the left.  Southern end of the city and out into where the Turnagain Arm
flows into Cook Inlet.  If you don't remember the Turnagain Arm, see the post from March 16th.

To the right, and zoomed in, the downtown area of Anchorage.

This photo was taken right after the sun went below the horizon.
You are seeing reflected light, not the sun.  Cool, huh?

Wednesday we had the opportunity to go to the Wasilla Zone Conference.  What a neat experience these mission meetings are!  In addition to the spirit that attends and the instruction the younger missionaries receive from the Mission President and their Zone Leaders, it is really neat to get to fellowship with them all and get to know them better.  Although we have been in Alaska for a little over two months, now, we still have not met a large number of the missionaries serving here.  It was also an opportunity for Sister Taylor to put some faces to some of them missionaries that she has helped over the phone.
After the meeting, we went out to do three apartment inspections on behalf of our Housing Coordinator.  That really helped us learn the Wasilla/Palmer area better!  Some of those apartments are not easy to find.
To get to one of the apartments, we had to drive through the Pioneer Peak area of Palmer.  What a beautiful area!  It is right at the foot of the mountains and yet is flat enough that there are some farms there as well.  About a hundred yards down the road from the Elders' apartment is a Reindeer farm that is owned by some members of the church.   We'll be going back when they open for tours later in the summer.

Pioneer Peak

Reindeer, or Caribou, same thing.  As Don Noel says, "The only difference is that
reindeer can fly, caribou can't."  Hey, makes sense to me.

And one lonely buffalo.

Also in our travels that day we saw a flock of Sand Hill Cranes grazing in an open area between the highway and the river.  When we stopped to take pictures we were told by a resident that they are just migrating through to the north for the summer.

We were able to continue walking the trails through Anchorage again this week.  Unfortunately we only made it a couple of times.  As usual, though, we saw some more interesting things.  Since we are talking about birds, we have seen a number of Canadian geese as they pass through on their migration.  Not too many large flocks like you see in Longview, but smaller groups and pairs almost everywhere, along the creeks and ponds, along the edge of the highway, even taking life easy in the church parking lot.

On Saturday we hauled a couple of mattress and a folding table to the newly arrived senior missionary couple in Eagle River.  They are from Utah and will be serving as military liaison missionaries with the members from Joint Base Edmonton-Richardson, an army and air force base at the north end of Anchorage.  We combined the trip with some sight-seeing in the Eklutna area.  We hiked in a mile to Thunderbird Falls on the Eklutna River (both a little anti-climactic after rivers and waterfalls in Washington/Oregon).  However, in so doing we got some good photos of some birds along the trail.  These are for Amy and Wes and any other bird watchers out there.  We have identified them as a male and female pair of Pine Grosbeaks.

In addition to the Grosbeaks, we also ran into large flocks of the Alaskan State Bird --

After hiking up to the waterfall, we drove up to Eklutna Lake, a beautiful mountain lake, surrounded by beautiful mountains.

Also in the Eklutna area we found a small Russian Orthodox Church and graveyard. This church is currently devoted to a congregation of one of the Native Alaskan peoples, the Athabaskans, but is now part of a historical park due to the construction of a new church nearby.  It was built in the mid-1800s in Knik, Alaska and was moved to Eklutna around 1900.  It is the longest standing building in the greater Anchorage area.  Most of the graves are covered by "spirit houses"- small structures built by the family of the deceased.  Many of them combine their native tradition with elements of Russian Orthodoxy such as the Russian Orthodox three-barred cross.

To end the week (or start the new one) we had a great day in church today.  During our Fast & Testimony Meeting one of the young elders from Samoa bore his testimony.  He has been in Alaska for nine weeks.  When he came he didn't do much more than smile and nod because he spoke very little English and only understood a little bit more.  Today he stood and bore a very moving testimony and did so completely in English!  It was broken English, but perfectly understandable and he spoke for 3 or 4 minutes.  Then a Tongan elder got up and told about his conversion and how his serving a mission has led to the baptism of his entire family.  It was a very uplifting meeting overall and those two young men were the highlight.  We are really enjoying our fellowship with these young elders and sisters and partaking of the spirit that surrounds them.