Saturday, December 24, 2011

We wish you a Merry Christmas!

   The Dixon's, December 2011

Greetings from New Jersey, where we (Roger & Deanne) are assigned as missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the New Jersey Morristown Mission.  We are here for 18 months serving as Church Education System (CES) Institute instructors in the East Brunswick area.  We spent several months this year preparing for our mission.  We were very fortunate to find a young couple (Calvin & Ashley Skinner) to stay in our home and a very reliable gardener to take care of Roger's hobby while we are away. 
A little about our calling:  We teach four Institute classes on the Old Testament to Young Single Adults (ages 18-30) during the week.  We travel about 8 hours a week to go to our classes.  We learned fast that one cannot get along without a GPS here.  The roads are complicated.  (See our blog post comparing UT and NJ.)  The classes are taught in Spanish and held in East Brunswick, Eatontown, Plainfield and Union City.   Roger speaks Spanish fluently and Deanne is learning.  Some students have been in the USA most of their lives and speak English quite well, others have been here as little as a year.  Likewise, their time in the LDS Church varies from life-time members to joining as recently as a month ago.   

Our Students:  So far, we have students from Chile, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico and Puerto Rico.  Some have served LDS missions, mostly within the United States; others are preparing to go out soon.  For the most part, they are in their twenties and single so the class also serves as an opportunity for them to socialize and we always provide food of some kind for the social period after the class. 

Other CES missionaries joined us after this photo.  This is the Cloisters, a great place to see medieval religious art in NYC.
Cultural Events:  We also have time each month for “cultural” events.  So far, we have been to the Cloisters (a grand building and art museum made from ornate materials and art shipped from Europe) and Radio City Music Hall (famous for their precision dancing and Christmas Spectacular) in New York City. 

We also toured the Washington winter headquarters in Morristown and Jockey Hollow where the troops were bivouacked during part of the Revolutionary War.  We have a similar outing each month and each missionary couple is responsible to plan an event.  In January we are going to see the Lion King on Broadway and in February the art museum in Philadelphia.  We are situated about halfway between New York City and Philadelphia.   We are pleased that our CES leader, David Bean, likes activities. 

About a month ago a new LDS East Brunswick Young Single Adult Branch was formed in our stake and Roger was called as first counselor in the unit.  He seems to take it all in stride.  We are enjoying the young people we meet.   We're also enjoying the young missionaries and senior missionaries we are meeting.  We enjoy and admire our mission leader, President and Sister Jeppson from Cottonwood, UT.  Yesterday we enjoyed an All-Mission Conference with all the 140 or so missionaries here.  It was a special treat to have Alex Boye perform for us.

Sister Sierer, (a fellow CES missionary whose husband is the 2nd counselor in the branch) made this Composite of the Branch members we have photos of, to date.  It looks like Branch President Eck is on the bottom right.

We miss our kids, grandkids, friends and ward a lot, but feel that this is important enough to be away for a while.  Ironically, every Wednesday we look across the Hudson and see the approximate area where our daughter Debi and family lived until 3 months before we arrived.

 We are grateful that we can keep in touch with our families by phone and email.  All the families are doing well and the grandkids are growing in skills as well as physically.  In the spirit of “Numbers” in the Old Testament:  Eric & Liz begat Grant, Claire & Taylor; Jen & Andrew begat Sierra, Brennon & Milo; Jeff & Kate begat Carter, Cassy, Ella & McKay; Dan & Holly begat Sienna & Luke; and Debi & Jared begat Bethany & Isaac.  We apologize to everybody else, but we have the cutest and smartest grandkids ever!   

This mission experience has been a great adventure for us.  We are increasing our circles of people we love.  The Hispanic kids we have been called to serve are bright, beautiful and full of devotion and testimony.  We learn from them.  We are trying to serve Jesus Christ by reinforcing and clarifying the teachings of His Gospel to Young Single Adults in this area.  This has been an enriching experience for us as we also learn more about the plan of salvation and Christ's key role for everyone.  We are enjoying this sweet time together.  
We pray the Lord's watchful care and blessings on each of you who have been and remain so important in our lives.  We've received Christmas cards, photos and letters from many of you and thank you for them.  This will be our card this year.

You are invited to join/become a Follower of this blog, which we will occasionally update.  It's a report on some highlights of our activities and some of our thoughts as we go along. 

God is good.

With Love, 
Roger and Deanne 
(Elder & Sister Dixon)

Christmas in New York City, what can I say?

"New York knows how to throw a party!" says our daughter Debi.  Christmas time is spectatular here.  It's hard to decide which photos show the experience best.   I'll try posting a few videos of the Macy's windows and Rockefeller Square light show in this report.

Here is Elder Dixon waiting at the train station to go spend the day in NYC.
We went to meet other CES missionaries from NY, NJ and PA for a luncheon and Christmas party.  Afterwards our NJ group walked around to see some of the great Christmas sights.  We went to Macy's and enjoyed the incredibly intricate, imaginative and beautiful windows.  I should have done a better job filming but there were LOTS of us with cameras and I didn't want to be in everyone's way.  Here are some favorite shots that just give you a glimpse into what we saw.  THESE ARE VIDEOS, SO PLEASE CLICK ON THE LITTLE ARROW in the lower left corner of each picture.  We will add a couple more of our best today or tomorrow.


More of the magical Macy's Christmas windows.

The Empire State Building in the background. 

A Bad Storm

TA freak early and heavy snow storm hit the northeast US in October.  It must have broken millions of trees and some communities were without power for a week.  The Dixon's were fortunate to miss that inconvenience.   Our development entrance shows a tree with major limbs removed.
The damage to this very large tree at the entrance to our development was so extensive that the tree was removed.  Four major limbs were peeled down like a banana.

Everywhere we drive up and down NJ there are broken branches placed near the curb.

A tree with the top broken off.

More broken trees.  They are everywhere up and down the state.

New Jersey Observations

We've noticed a number of characteristics about New Jersey that differ from our home in Utah.  Here are a few:

1)  You have to have a GPS to find your way around here.  We were skeptical but it is true.  Traveling from point A to point B is what sailors would call tacking and what I might call zigzagging.  There doesn't seem to be a straight line to follow.  That may be due in part to the many rivers and small mountain ridges here going north & south.

2)  There are a lot of small late model foreign (commuter) cars in NJ, as opposed to family-size vans and pick-up trucks in UT.  There are over 100 cars in our court and I've only noticed one van.  I also rarely see people.  They leave early in the morning and I don't know when they return because we are gone most evenings.  We've just seen a handful of children playing although there are some bikes and toys near apartment doorways.

This is the view from our doorway in the middle of the day.

3)  Many main roads have "jug handles" to replace left turns from the center of the road.  If you want to turn left, you first turn right on a little short curving side street, which lets you get in position to cross the main road (or turn left) when the light turns green.

4)  More people live here!  New Jersey is the most densely populated state with 1,189/sq. mile. It is also the second wealthiest.  
Utah is 41st most densely populated with 34/sq. mile and 45th in per capita income.  Although there are tons of houses and apartments here, in most areas the trees help mitigate the view.

A nearby shopping center has gorgeous fall colors.

We see more highways than cities.

5)  There are also large spaces of rich farmland as well.   (Hence: The Garden State).  We visited a lovely 300 acre farm about 3 miles away to buy our Christmas greens.  The farm has been in the same family for 13 generations, since 1713.   
This is just a farm we passed on one of our travels to a mission event.

On Thanksgiving Day we had a lovely walk with fellow CES Instructors along this riverbank.

6)  No one can have garbage disposals here because the sewage infrastructure is so old.

7)  You can't pump your own gas in NJ.  There are attendants that do helps the employment numbers.

8)  Most of the light poles seem to have solar panels, we assume to help supply power.

9)  People are required to recycle.

10) We may add to this as we go along.  We are loving each state in spite of and for their differences.