Sunday, June 25, 2017

Phillip Island

Saturday we decided to take a road trip to a place called Phillip Island for an up close and personal encounter with some kangaroos, wallabies and various other animals. We went with our friends and fellow senior couples the Hydes and the Maughans. 

We wanted to go there because we had heard you can feed and even pet kangaroos up close. It did not disappoint!

The kangaroos came right up to us and wanted the food we had to offer. They have some pretty long claws on those little front paws, but they were very gentle and we didn't get clawed. They would grab our proffered hand with the food in it and hold on until they had licked our hands clean. Some were a little more greedy than others and one mama huffed at me a couple of times because I was not getting the food out of my pocket fast enough for her.

As you can see by looking at the background in some of the photos, we were in an open "wild" area, not inside a cage. Obviously, these roos are pretty used to humans, so not totally wild, but certainly wild enough for us!

It was a really fun experience to be so up close and personal with a wild animal. So close, in fact, that you could see their eyelashes, which, by the way, were really quite long! They have powerful legs, and those tails are super strong and act like another leg to balance with. There were dark grey ones and light ones. Some a little more brown.

Patiently waiting for Brent to give him more food

 Here is a mama Roo with her baby in the pouch looking out

 Baby Joey in head first with just his legs sticking out. Haha!

 All filled up and just chillin' now

Here's a little video you can click on:

This little guy is a wallaby; they are smaller than kangaroos and a little more reddish in color with dark ears, and are really cute

 This is a Wombat. Weird name for something that looks nothing like a bat, but more like a pig and is actually related to the Koala family. He looked fat and cuddly though.

Two very pretty ducks and a colorful-looking emu-type bird

This very colorful Kookaburra has a very cool bird call. We only get to hear it once in a while where we live. Our office mates, the Hydes, have seen them and heard them several times on their morning walks. If you would like to hear the song of the amazing Kookaburra click here.
Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree
Merry, merry King of the bush is he,
Laugh, Kookaburra, laugh,
Kookabura gay your life must be!

Us at the chocolate factory where we got hot chocolate on the way back home

We get to work with the BEST people on Earth!

Australia is awesome!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Thunder Down Under

This coming week is Transfer Week. I have a love/hate relationship with Transfer Week. It's really fun to see the new Golden missionaries arrive from the MTC with a look of excitement, high hopes (and jet lag) on their faces, but it's brutal to say goodbye to others. Truly, one of the hardest things about serving as a senior missionary is saying goodbye to amazing and incredible young missionaries when the time comes for them to return to their homes.

Here are some of the amazing missionaries we will say goodbye to this week:

As office staff, we get to know many of the missionaries very well ... and it's hard to see them go. To most of you looking at this blog, they are just a bunch of ordinary Mormon missionaries, not a lot different than the thousands of other missionaries serving around the world. But to us, they are far from ordinary, they are extra-ordinary, and each and every one of them is a story of growth, and successes, and overcoming hardships and challenges, and friendships, and miracles. In a way each of them IS a miracle.

I'm not sure how to put into words what these young, energetic and spiritual young men and young women mean to us. The closest explanation I can offer would be to compare it to how I feel about my own adult children, who are my best friends, and who I miss like crazy!

One of the departing missionaries who I love dearly is Elder Oscar John Francis Rizardo Olan, from the Philippines. (Yes, that's his name!) Elder Olan (far left) is one of the kindest, most loving missionaries I have ever met. Most recently, he has been serving, along with Elder Walbeck, as an Assistant to President Vidmar, which meant that Sister Gray and I were able to associate with and get to know him and a little more than usual. (The Assistants also live right next door to us in Bayswater, which provided other opportunities to rub shoulders with them.)

Elder Olan is an amazing teacher and leader and I have learned a lot from his humble example and testimony. He will be a true blessing to his family and others back home in the Philippines. I get emotional just thinking about saying goodbye to Elder Olan and several other amazing missionaries who are going home in this transfer. I'm not sure if I'll ever get to see Elder Olan again. Hopefully, so.

There's another reason I'll miss Elder Olan: He is an incredible ping pong player! Being a tennis player, I have played a little ping pong myself over the years and Elder Olan proved to be a more-than-able opponent! There just happens to be a ping pong table at the Mission Home and a couple of times a month on P-Day, Elder Olan and I would meet there to see who would be the victor that day. We had some epic battles! It seemed that some days he was just too tough to beat, yet on others, I was able to squeak out a win or two. It was always back and forth and neither of us could claim superiority over the other.

Last P-Day was to be our final battle, winner take all, Mission bragging rights for ever and ever. President Vidmar called it "The Thunder Down Under" and created an "official" scoreboard complete with quotes from ping pong "experts" around the world, to track the wins and losses. (Zoom in on the photo to read the quotes!) The champion would be crowned based on whoever could win the best of 11 games (or first one to 6). The infamous Howard Cosell (aka P-Viddy) even made an appearance from the grave to interview the contestants. The Final Contest was on!

Elder Olan came out swinging with incredibly aggressive play and quickly went up 1-0. I came back with a tight win to even things up at 1 all. Then Elder Olan got serious and whooped me 11 to 4 in game 3 to take a 2-1 lead. I settled down and played a little smarter and evened the score at 2 games apiece. But then Elder Olan went on a tear, winning two straight games for a commanding 4-2 lead.

I picked up the next game, but Elder Olan came right back with another victory to make the overall score 5-3 in favor of Elder Olan. He only needed one more win to be crowned the champion. It was not looking good for me.

That was when Howard "Tell It Like It Is" Cosell entered the picture. He interviewed a humble Elder Olan first, who admitted he knew it wasn't over yet. (I wasn't so sure.) But it was when Cosell/P-Viddy asked me how I could possibly come back from a 5-3 deficit, that I found my advantage: age! I told Cosell that while my skilled opponent had youth and good looks, he lacked the wisdom that only comes with age. The Intimidation Factor was in play and game 9 began.

I don't remember the exact score in the next two games, but I do remember getting down 8-3 or something like that. I thought I was toast. But somehow I inched my way back into those two games and eventually won them both, tying up the score 5 all. Next game wins it all.

And what a final game it was! It was no surprise when we suddenly found ourselves tied at 10 points each. (For those who don't know the proper scoring in table tennis, games are played to 11 with players alternating serve every two points. At 10 all, the serve alternates back and forth between the players after every point. And you have to win by two.)

So, there we were, 5 all in games and 10 all in point in the final game. One thing is for sure, it could easily have gone either way, but on this day age and wisdom won over youth and beauty. (Truth be told, I got really lucky!)

It's a memory Elder Olan and I will treasure forever. See ya around, Elder Oscar John Francis Rizardo Olan. You will be missed.

Friday, May 12, 2017

In the Zone: Meet our Missionaries

We just finished up Zone Conferences this past week, which for us Senior Missionaries, is one of the highlight moments of our mission. These young (mostly) 18, 19, 20 and 21-year old "kids" are truly amazing and a miracle to watch their growth throughout their mission experience. Be sure to watch the video at the bottom, too!

Braeside Zone

Craigieburn Zone

Deer Park Zone

Gippsland Zone

Heidelberg Zone

Maroondah Zone

Melbourne Chinese Zone

Narre Warren Zone

Tasmania Zone

Wangaratta Zone

Wyndham Zone

A cheap phone video doesn't do justice to what it's like to be in the same room with 50 or 60 awesome missionaries enthusiastically belting out "Called To Serve", but turn up your volume, click the video below, and maybe you'll get a little bit of a feel for what it's like to be there!

Friday, May 5, 2017

President Vidmar: Master Teacher & Motivator

President Vidmar was really on his A-Game today at Mission Leadership Council training!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

“How did it get so late so soon?” ― Dr. Seuss

"Time doth fly", said the poet, and so it has. Another month in the mission field has flown by ... and so much has happened. Another transfer has come and gone, including saying goodbye to some amazing missionaries. And we've welcome 17 new ones to the mission.

Mission President's office on transfer day

The Book of Mormon play is still all the rage in Melbourne and the missionaries have handed out hundreds and hundreds of copies of the real Book of Mormon in many languages. We've heard some incredible stories of lessons taught, miracles that have transpired, and lives that are changing. The blessings of the gospel—and this work—are evident at every turn.

And the more temporal aspects of Senior Missionary work also continue. We've closed down a few flats in some outlying areas and are in the process of looking for new ones in growth areas. I've (unfortunately) had to deal with more than a few wrecked cars recently and have had to process a couple of speeding tickets as well. At our Zone Conferences last week I had the opportunity to spend some time with the missionaries teaching them about responsibility and stewardship, and how to take care of their cars (and not wreck them). The principle of obedience—along with the consequences of disobedience—were mentioned often. Indeed, the work goes on.

This past week many of our missionaries had the opportunity to do some service and help clean the temple, inside and out. One after another they came into the office after 4 hours of pretty intense physical labor with huge smiles on their faces, so happy to have had the privilege to clean the House of the Lord. A few lucky Elders even got to clean the Angel Moroni, which was no easy task!


As office workers in the mission, we put in many hours each and every weekday; there's just a lot of work to do. But Saturday is our P-Day and a couple of weeks ago we took a little "side trip" about an hour north and visited the famous Yarra Valley Chocolaterie. It was a pretty incredible place ... and a chocolate lover's dream! It was fun to watch their talented European Chocolatiers at work and browse through the amazing showroom filled with over 250 different chocolate products. Until next time, enjoy a few photos of what Chocolate Heaven looks like!