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, July 19, 2015

We started into Zone Conferences this last week.  If you have forgotten, or just joined us in this journey, there are seven zones in our mission and they correspond to the seven stakes of the church in Alaska and the Yukon Territory.  Pres. Robinson has asked Sister Taylor to attend these conferences and make a presentation to the missionaries about avoiding and treating injuries.  I get to go along as her companion and help our Vehicle Coordinator with vehicle inspections.

We started with the Chugach Zone and met with them in Eagle River on Wednesday.  After Sister Taylor finished her presentation, we left early so that she could attend a physical therapy appointment with one of the young sister missionaries back in Anchorage.  While she was doing that, I was manning the office all by myself.  It was okay until a group of missionaries that had come to Anchorage to attend the temple came flooding into the office, looking for supplies, snacks, things for their apartments, etc.  It was like herding cats!  I did manage to survive and keep the office in one piece until backup arrived, but it was a challenge.

Friday was the conference for the Fairbanks Zone and we met at the ward building in North Pole.  Not at the North Pole, in North Pole, Alaska.  Quite an interesting town.  We got up at 4:30 a.m. so that we could make our flight at 7:00 a.m.  The flight to Fairbanks takes a little less than an hour.  It can take 7-8 hrs. to drive there with the summer traffic.  We arrived a little before 8:00 o'clock and were met at the airport by President and Sister Robinson.  Having some time before the conference started, they took us sightseeing in North Pole, which is located a few miles south of Fairbanks.  Quite the tourist stop as you can imagine.  The streets are called things like St. Nicholas Dr., Kris Kringle Way, and so forth.  The street light poles are painted like red and white candy canes.  We stopped at the Santa Claus House.  It is an amazing store entirely focused on Christmas and open year around.  Reindeer out in the parking area and everything.  They even have their own reindeer barn.  All the tour buses stop there.  One was just leaving as we arrived.  Here are a few of the photos we took there.

Oh, before we get to North Pole, this is a moose that is in the Anchorage Airport.  We've seen several in our time here, but we've never seen one quite like this guy.  Definitely the king of all he surveys!  You may not be able to tell, but he is huge!

The Santa Claus House (and tourist trap!)

Santa Claus checking his list.  He's about 30' tall.

Lots of photo opportunities for the tourists, both inside and out.

President and Sister Robinson

"Jolly" Ol' Saint Nick?  Nice enough guy, but he looked kind of grumpy.

Sister Taylor letting the old guy know what's on her list.

And, of course, what would a Christmas store be like without a countdown to Christmas?
If you're good, you can figure out exactly when we were there.
After the conference, we flew home on the same flight as the Robinsons and the Assistants to the President.  They had all flown up the night before.  It was a long day for us, but very enjoyable.

The traditional missionary "selfie" with companion and, in this case, the APs, Elders Harris and Justice.

We flew both legs of the journey on a Bombardier Q400 which is the size of a small jet but is a turboprop.  The wing is attached over the fuselage rather than under it.  The view out the window was of the engine nacelle - whoopee.
Sister Taylor wasn't sure she wanted to be this up close and personal with the landing gear.  I figured it was better than up close and personal with the prop which was just a few rows forward of us.
While a lot of Alaska is mountainous, the area around Fairbanks is very flat with lots of water.

The Tanana River as it flows by Fairbanks.  You can see that the land is flat enough that the river takes many channels and we could see where it had changed course many times.

The perfect kind of river for a stern wheeler river boat.  This is apparently one of two or three in town that run dinner and sightseeing cruises for the tourists.

Next week we go to zone conferences in Soldotna, Anchorage (2 of them) and Wasilla.  Then the following week is the conference in Juneau.  We are looking forward to them.  It is always a pleasure to spend time with the young missionaries.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Well, this week we passed 5 months in the mission field!  We continue to enjoy being here in Alaska and serving in the mission.  This last week was transfer week and so was very busy.  Even a little more so than usual because we had 16 new missionaries arrive and 9 go home.  Big changes!

All but one of the new missionaries arrived on Monday.  We have had two elders called from the Philippines who have been serving there for several weeks while waiting for their visas.  Week before last we received word that one of them had finally come through and that the elder would be arriving from the Philippines on the same day as our regular group.  Then two days later we learned that he had had an emergency appendectomy and would be delayed.  He arrived on Thursday, one week after his surgery!

Of course one of the high spots of the week was hearing the testimonies of the departing missionaries.  We had one sister and 8 elders going home and they each bore strong testimonies of the Savior and of their personal progress during their missions.  One young man bore a particularly touching testimony, telling about the sudden death of his father when he was in middle school.  He told how he had prayed so sincerely that his father would be spared and about his anger when his father died anyway.  He struggled for several years afterward, doubting the love of his Father in Heaven because He had let his father die.  When the time came, in spite of his doubts, he decided to go on a mission anyway.  When his call came, it was to Alaska, the same mission where his father had served, 30 years before.  As he served, this elder was called to the same areas his father had served in, met some of the people his father had taught and saw many of the same sights.  He said that he felt like he was walking in the footsteps of his dad and that the Lord had granted him this tender mercy in answer to his prayer so many years ago.

Also this week we have had a sister staying with us off and on whose husband is in the hospital here in Anchorage.  They were visiting their daughter and family out in the bush and he developed pneumonia and had to be Medivac'ed (by Lear jet) to the hospital here.  Their daughter and family are members of the Bush Branch and we told our branch president that she could stay here and we'd see that she got back and forth to the hospital.  She's a very sweet lady.  She and her husband are from Alabama.  A long ways from home to have to deal with something like this.  Her husband is doing pretty well and they anticipate him being released in a couple of days.

In the middle of all this, Sister Taylor had to put together a powerpoint presentation for the Mission Leadership Council meeting that was held on Thursday.  She got to talk to the Zone Leaders about cleanliness and how they could teach their missionaries that personal and apartment cleanliness would keep them healthier.  It was apparently well received, we have been getting feedback from the elders about the training the zone leaders gave them.  Sister Taylor's biggest weapon were the up-close photos of a dust mite and a bed bug.  They were all pretty grossed out!  It apparently got the point across.

And speaking of the Bush Branch, we are enjoying our new assignment!  It was great to be in a position to help out the couple from Alabama.  We learned of their situation last week when we were talking with the Branch President.  The reason for our conversation was the fact that the presidency was going to be out of town for the July 4th weekend.  They needed us to go to the office and operate the Polycom and music player so that they could conduct the meetings from out in the field.  I was scared to death that I'd push the wrong button and shut the whole thing down!  It was interesting to be the only ones there, having the sacrament by ourselves and the whole thing.  And then this week we spoke in Sacrament meeting!  It wasn't too strange for me, I'm kind of used to speaking into a microphone, but Sister Taylor said that it was really weird.  The only person you can make eye contact with is the Branch President who is sitting across the desk from you.  Fortunately, today we had several people attending with us in the office.  It made things a little more normal.

 Sooo.....  since we have been so busy this week, we haven't done any fun sightseeing.  So that you won't go into picture withdrawal, I have included some that we haven't posted in the past.

One day when we got home, we found this big mound of balloons blocking our doorway (ours is to the left) and a note on the door to Freddie from Lizzie, telling him Happy Birthday and asking him to call her.  We asked around, trying to find out who Freddie was, even talking to our landlord.  She said she didn't have a "Fred or Freddie" living anywhere in the complex.  So, after climbing over them for a couple of days, we bagged them up and had them sitting in our living room when the elders from downstairs came by.  They asked us about the balloons and offered to take them off our hands if we were just going to throw them away.  We said that would be fine.  The next day they came by for their Sunday night goodies and asked again about the balloons.  Then they started laughing and showed us a selfie of the two of them in the middle of the balloons with impish grins on their faces!  They had pranked us and we hadn't had a clue!  We told them that they should repent, they were too good at lying!  And then we threatened revenge.

This is a picture we took as we were driving home from picking Kristi up at the airport.  This is at 3:00 a.m!  As you can tell from the lines on the road and the car coming toward us on the other roadway, we did have our headlights on, even if they were only nominally needed.  That is not sunrise you see in the sky.  That is the way it is all night - if 11:30 to 4:30 qualifies as all night.

Alaska is the land of many things, including fireweed.  It grows everywhere and figures prominently into street names, jellies, honey and even ice cream.  It is really beautiful and, of course, Sister Taylor the Master Gardener couldn't resist taking some pictures.  We were also able to visit the Botanical Gardens here is Anchorage a while back.  Here are a just a few of the photos we took there.

Landscaping with edible plants in each box.

A wattle fence lining the path.

A section of Gardens commemorating the vegetable gardens of early Anchorage.  Nice blue planter in the back, eh?  The bed of the truck is clear full of growing cabbage of various types.  Cabbages are big up here, literally and figuratively.  The other landscape plant we were surprised to see by the acre is rhubarb.   Huge rhubarb plants.

Some interesting and pretty flowers, oh, and a bee.   And did you know that Alaska has 14 species of orchids that are native?   They all grow in the ground and have already finished blooming for this year.   Maybe next spring we'll get to see them.

Well, this coming week we are off to Zone Conferences where Sister Taylor will be training on injury prevention.  We'll let you know how things go.

We miss all our family, especially our grandkids, of course.  Love to you all.

Elder & Sister Taylor
Grandpa & Grandma
Dad & Mom

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Kristi's visit - Episode Two

On Tuesday the three of us drove up to Hatcher Pass, about an hour and a half northeast of Anchorage.  Our first stop on the way was Eklutna, a wide spot in the road just off the Seward Highway.  There is a small Russian Orthodox Church there that serves a native Alaskan congregation.  We included a couple of pictures of it and the graveyard in the post of May 3rd.  On this trip we stopped in and took the tour (sort of).

This is the new church (1962).  To the right and below is the original,
apparently one of the oldest still-standing buildings in this area.  

This is the entire inside of the old church.
In the graveyard there are numerous "Spirit Houses," little wooden houses built over a loved ones grave.  Most are old, fairly simple and pretty weathered.  This one, however, is newer and is really something!

Continuing on our way, we next drove through the town of Palmer.  Just outside of Palmer there is a Reindeer Farm that has tours in the summertime.  We got quite the kick out of the reindeer, elk, bison and bunnies.

Look at the rack on that bad boy!  Reindeer lose their antlers every year and have to regrow them, getting a bigger rack each year.  Their antlers grow between 1 and 6 inches per day and are extremely sensitive when covered in velvet.

This is the only bison/buffalo the farm has.  Her name is Dolly and her mother was killed when she was little and the Reindeer Farm was asked if they could raise her.  So they did, but she was raised with a moose!  She has never seen another bison and considers herself a moose.  She is a very hefty animal but is apparently only about 2/3 normal size.

And then we came to Hatcher Pass!  It was absolutely gorgeous!  It reminded Sister Taylor and me of driving through the Great Glen in Scotland.   Others have described it as being like the Alps in Switzerland.  The green-clad mountains come right down to the road and tower over you as you drive along.  At the top of the paved portion is an old gold mine that has been made into a park and partially restored.  From there the road becomes gravel and winds on over to Willow about 30 miles away.  That section will not be open until the middle of July and "high clearance vehicles" are strongly suggested for the journey.  As usual, I have to say that the pictures don't do the scenery justice, but here you go...

Headed up the pass.

Looking up toward Hatcher Pass Lodge and Cabins.
I think that this is the part that people compare to Switzerland.

Some of the restored buildings at the Independence Mine.

Looking up from the same spot to part of where the mine shaft itself is located.  That is a railcar trestle up at the top.  The entrance to the mine is close by.  Kristi and Sister Taylor walked into the opening and said that it was like walking into a freezer!  Looking from the mine back down the valley, it seemed like we truly were on top of the world.

And yes, we are always on the lookout for new birds.  This is a fairly common bird in this area of Alaska but we'd never been able to positively identify it before.  It is a Common Redpoll, a finch.  

Well, that's about everything we saw and did on Kristi's visit.  She left the next morning and experienced more adventure on her way home.  Her plane developed some problems and had to return to Anchorage.  She was so late getting back on her way that she missed her connection in Seattle (by quite a ways) and ended up spending the night with the Oliversons in Seattle.  The next day she had to fly to Dallas, TX, before making it back to El Paso and Las Cruces.  What a trip!

We loved having her here and hated to go back to reality when she left.  It was so fun, just being tourists with our little girl along for a few days.    Special times for sure.