Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Where to begin? Just talk fast!

There is so much I want to tell you and I'm just getting started.  Our daughter Debi started this blog on our behalf and posted the messages we sent her, to this point.  We realllllly appreciate her help*....push*....to get this going!  Thanks Debi!
*we think she "works" during the twin's nap time!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Settling In

(This is an email sent to our family about 3 days after we arrived.)

Hi Everybody. Thanks for your notes and love. We have settled into our little apartment and are quite comfortable in 650 sq ft. Not having a lot of toys helps a lot. This is a modest but nice apartment complex. We've seen mostly people of Indian descent, who have been pleasant. They sure have beautiful children. The night we moved in two ladies called across the parking lot and said, hello, are you new? They walked closer then one saw my badge in the dim light and exclaimed, Missionaries!!!  She gave me a hug! They are the only LDS in miles.  Melissa lives only 4 doors down and her mom Margaret, is in a nearby community.

We've had a day of full on rain and days of overcast clouds with some patches of beautiful blue skies. Autumn colors seem in the early stage and so gorgeous.
Our door is the fourth from the left, in front of the white car (not ours).  Most of the cars in this development look new and nice. 
 This photo is taken off our front porch, looking in the opposite direction from the above photo.  We live in the Royal Oaks complex.  We estimate there are approximately 840 apartments similar to ours.  
This is the view from our back sliding glass door.  Straight ahead is a tennis court and basketball court where we frequently see pick-up games played as seen in this photo.  To the far left is children's play equipment and our development's recreation center -- definitely within walking distance.  It has a small fitness room (which we use regularly) a pool and a party room.
We teach our first Institute class in Spanish on Sunday at 12:30 after church. We hear the "kids" (Young Single Adults) are excited to have us come and are spreading the word. We replace the Hatches, a couple that finished 6 months ago. I'll make Thea's recipe for a Pumpkin Pie Sheet Cake with Carmel Frosting. All suggestions for snacks and treats will be WELCOME! I brought no recipes.....I've got you!

FYI, we don't have internet hooked up yet. Maybe tomorrow. This smart phone is a blessing, but awkward for long messages.

Sent from Yahoo! Mail on Android

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

To NJ With Love

We just crossed into NJ. Will be meeting our CES leader for lunch then the mission president. Trip has been good. We're about 60 miles from NY. Saw signs for DC, Gettysburg, Baltimore, etc.

Love you all,
October 18, 2011, on location: New Jersey Morristown Mission
So this is the official mission photo of us taken on the day we arrived by our CES coordinator, Brother David Bean.

Elder & Sister Dixon/Mom & Dad/Grandma & Grandpa/Deanne & Rog/Etc.

Sent from Yahoo! Mail on Android

      The Trip Eastward
We left Highland on October 13th and arrived in Morristown on October 18th.

As we traveled, we thought often of “America the Beautiful”.  To paraphrase that popular hymn: we left the purple mountain majesties, traveled through amber waves of grain and arrived at the fruited plain – all under spacious skies.  We truly live in a fabulous nation.  We followed the thoroughfare for freedom beat across the wilderness in reverse.  How marvelous it would be if all of our successes were noble and every gain divine.  How great it would be if we all felt and practiced brotherhood from sea to shining sea. 

 We were impressed with the abundance of our nation, which is represented in so many forms.  It filled us with gratitude and caused us to wonder how we can work to help a few of God’s children enjoy lives in which they are able to fulfill, at least some of their fondest dreams.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Our trip is going very well. We are in Ohio tonight.

Our  Prius averaged 47.6 MPG for the whole trip.  Do we sound pious?  We're glad for the great gas mileage because we are traveling a lot in our weekly assignments here in NJ.

This is the total of what we took for our 18-month stay--very tightly packed.

Things got a little confusing near Indianapolis.  It fit the saying: "You can't get there from here!"  Click on the pictures and you'll notice that suddenly we see that all the road signs near this overpass and major roads confluence and  divergence are taped over.  We knew we needed to turn but didn't know where or how or when or what into!  Yikes!  We hadn't needed the GPS on our smart phone yet.

Most of the Midwest looked a lot like this.
There were still touches of autumn as we traveled in October.
Day's end.  Time to find a place to stay.

On Sunday my sister Shari went to church with us in Oxford, Ohio, and then we ate at her daughter Kelly's home and enjoyed getting to know Kelly's family.  This area is close to Cincinnati where Deanne was born.

I it's hard to express in words how wonderful it was to visit with Shari Ridenour, my half-sister.  It had been a long time since we had seen each other.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

On the Road

Well, we did it. We actually pulled out of the driveway, our little car loaded to the gills and we're on our way to New Jersey. The drive has been good so far. We're staying in Laramie tonight.

It is hard to believe, after years of talking about a mission, that it's really begun.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Visit with Jeff's Fam

We enjoyed a visit with Jeff, Kate and kids--Carter, Cassidy, Ella and McKay--and the birds before taking off for New Jersey!  McKay will be nearly twice his age now when we get back.  Maybe we will feel we are too!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sweet Day

I felt a little sentimental as we left the MTC tonight.  We attended a devotional in which Julie Beck, Relief Society President spoke.  It was well done, inspiring and contained a good message for missionaries going into the unknown.  Also inspiring was the beautiful choir of missionaries singing "Where Can I Turn for Peace" in tender harmony.  As the entire audience of 2500 or more sang the closing song I just wished I could bottle that moment up like perfume and take it with me to enjoy a touch everyday.  
Tomorrow we spend our last few hours there and then come home around 1 or 2 to do the serious packing into the car....at which time we find out what are real priorities.   Thea and Larry will join us in the afternoon and we will take them out to eat their belated birthday dinner.  We plan to leave early Thursday.  There are loose ends that we may never quite tie up...oh well, sometimes that happens.  Dad and I are ready to go out there and start working.  We plan to stop in Cincinnati on Saturday night and stay a day to visit my four half-sisters who live around there.  (That would be Sandie, Annette, Shari and Linda).  We expect to report to the Mission President & CES Director on Tuesday.
Talk about bad timing:  our KeepSee boxes will be manufactured in just a day or two...probably as we drive away.  I hope to see them in NJ before too long!  In my absence, Jeff, Debi, Paul, Calvin and Ashley will run the company.  We have an awesome and talented team and I wish them well!
Please give our grandchildren another hug from us and tell them we love them.  Also...please measure their height asap and report it to me.  I want to have them entered on our height chart in the kitchen so that we can measure how much they grow while we are gone.  

Sunday, October 9, 2011

1 Week Down, 71 to Go

We finished a week in the MTC and have three days to go. It's amazing there. Just amazing. What a busy, sweet and happy place.

The Making of Missionaries

We were having a conversation with another couple and someone said, if God wanted to set up an amazing system in which He would prepare missionaries to go out into the world to preach His Gospel, this would be just the place.  It is so well organized it just amazes us, including the system of feeding the young missionaries with everything they would want plus lots of nutritious choices.  I want to tell Grant that he will like it here.  An Elder could even eat cold cereal and fresh fruit 3 times a day if he wished.  Some Elders walk to their tables with two plates full of food and three glasses of milk, plus side dishes and desserts on their tray.  I heard one Elder say, "I don't know what it is but it's food and I'm going to eat it!"  Maybe that's why some missionaries gain spiritually and physically at the MTC.

This is just a small portion of the cafeteria.  And more missionaries come in at later times. 

They also have a small army of outstanding returned missionaries that do a lot of the proselyting instructions and language tutorials.  They have every minute planned with specific activities to keep it interesting and rewarding.  They pull a lot of personal stories out of the participants that enrich our classes.  
In one class discussion we discussed how we can be of service to the local ward or branch, in addition to our specific calling, especially when it seems like our spouse has the primary skills needed for the assignment  (ie: Roger & me).   I offered an example of Debi in NYC.  I told them her experience with twin babies and her struggle to attend and stay at church while Jared served in the Bishopric.  I reported that she felt the Senior Missionaries were like angels helping her in church with the twins.  One of the sisters in our MTC group said, "I can do that!"  

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Senior Missionaries

The young missionaries are well aware that we have phones.  Danny VanWagoner was helping me with mine and said he hadn't even held one for a month.  Ah, the sacrifice these kids make to serve.
Here is an interesting tidbit:  our "class" of senior missionaries may be the largest they have ever had yet.  Several speakers mentioned the missionary-motivational talk that Elder Holland gave during Priesthood last Saturday night and joked that we were sure quick to follow the admonition by the following Monday.  
Last night was a Senior Missionaries Testimony Meeting for just those who were learning a foreign language.  Every one of us got up and bore our testimony in our "mission language".  Here are the missions represented in that meeting, although I may not be saying the names properly:  Moscow Russia West; Philippines (Tagala); Madrid Spain/Canary Islands; another Madrid Spain; Czech/Prague; Mongolia (it could have been me!); Mexico Montery West; Cambodia; Albania; Russia Moscow East; Franco Germany Office; Tonga; Italy Rome (setting up a YSA Center); New Jersey CES Spanish.

Our MTC District

Recounting Deanne's testimony in her words:  "I mentioned that I learned the difference between "estoy" and "soy", although both of them mean "I am."  I learned that "estoy" is used for a temporary state of being, such as being in the MTC and "soy" could be used for a permanent characteristic or occupation,etc.  Therefore "Yo soy misionera (permanently)."  And "Yo soy representante de Jesucristo (permanently)."  At the time I expressed that understanding it touched me as deeply as anything I had yet heard or felt in the MTC and I realized that the Lord wants me to be His Representative in a special way all my life.  I commit to doing that to the best of my ability.  We have been counseled to continue to increase our ability to speak the new language so that we can use it again in the service of the Lord."

The MTC Experience

The MTC experience has been really great.  We have met so many fun and interesting people, including a cousin from the Bagley side of the family who is going to the Dallas Texas Spanish-speaking Mission and another cousin (much younger) who is from the Hale side of the family.  She is an MTC instructor.  Members of our group are going to about 50 different missions and 20 to 25 of the couples are assigned to learn foreign languages, including, Russian, Czech, Albanian, Spanish, Tagalog, Cebu, Italian, Spanish, Mongolian and more.  In some cases, the brothers already speak the language and their wives must learn; in most cases, neither of the couple speaks the assigned language.  We have learned a lot and are ready to go forth and serve as best we can.

With Elder Bagley, third cousin once removed

It turns out that the number of senior missionaries is up by 20% over last year and our group is the largest group of senior missionaries the MTC has ever had (49 couples and 4 single sisters), a total of 102.  We have met an elder from Honduras assigned to London; an elder from Spain assigned to Nevada; an elder from Tahiti assigned to Louisiana; an elder from the Dominican Republic assigned to Chicago; an elder from Mexico assigned to California; and an elder from Portugal assigned to Nevada.  Now, that is a real cultural exchange!

Classic MTC photo with our district


Monday, October 3, 2011

First Day!

Today was our first day as missionaries. We went to the MTC (Mission Training Center) in Provo and began our orientation. It was really nice. We went to the cafeteria to eat (along with many of the 2500 other missionaries there!) and discovered we were sitting near a wonderful young man whose home is about 4 blocks from us, (Elder Danny VanWagoner). He is doing great and is so excited to be going to Norway. He's working hard to learn the language in his 8 weeks at the MTC.