Sunday, May 29, 2016

A Month of Preparation and Practice

The time is going by fast.  It is hard to believe it has almost been three months since we left California for our Mission.  This past month has been a time to prepare for the crowds that begin building in June, July and August.  The weather has been good this month.  Most days were in the 60"s and 70's with an occasional 80's.  We have had quite a bit of rain, but never for more than a few hours.  There have even been a few thunder and lighting storms.  They can last for one to two hours straight in this part of our country.

Beginning this weekend we have gone into our summer site schedules.  The sites that we serve in are now open from 9 am to 6 pm Monday through Saturday.  On Sunday's the sites are open from 12:30 - 5:00 pm.  Each Friday afternoon a schedule is published for the following week on which locations we serve for that week.  During May we had school tours from the surrounding area on about half our days.  It is a good time for the kids to come and see a few sites and get a wagon ride before the large crowds arrive.

Serving in the sites is the main purpose we have been called.  It is where we get to meet so many different people.  Many of them are members of the Church.  Our presentations to each group need to be no more than 10 minutes to accommodate the summer crowds.  In our presentations we teach the guests about many of the activities of the people in the 1840's - rope making, candle making, bread making, tinsmiths, blacksmiths, weaving, printing, spinning, brick making, boot making and gun smiths.  We testify of the trials, faith, hard work and unity of the people in accomplishing difficult tasks.  In my previous visits as a guest it was inspiring to hear their stories.  It always made me appreciate their sacrifices and want to try a little harder in my life to be more Christlike and have the faith to face my challenges when I returned home from the visit.  It is a great blessing to now be called as a missionary to be teaching the guests these events.  I am always impressed to see parents bring their families here on spring breaks and now in the summer to give their children an opportunity to hear and feel the Spirit of these historical sites. Sister Rober and I are always reminding ourselves of the sacred nature of the events and streets we get to call home for a short time.

Our site shifts are now 6 hours.  Two nights a week we are in the Senior Missionary Rendezvous Show. We need to be there at 6:30 to prepare for the 7:00 pm show and a repeat show at 8:15.  It makes it very tight now if our site shift ends at 6:00 and we need to go home and change into our Rendezvous clothes in 30 minutes - maybe time for a granola bar for dinner.  The Rendezvous Show runs year round but with normally only one show per night in the winter months.  The show does an excellent job testifying in music the same messages we give at the sites.  Sister Rober is playing the piano accompaniment for the Rendezvous Show and has just started accompanying a children's show three days per week for the summer schedule.

We are now also in two performances per week of the Sunset by the Mississippi Show. These shows begin at 7 pm every night but Sunday during the summer.  The Young Performing Missionaries (YPM) and Brass Band are the main performers in this show.  In April, Sister Rober talked me into playing a little boogie woogie piano number for the talent show.  During the Sunset show each night there are two Senior Missionary specialty numbers.  Somehow, the Sunset Directors have asked me to play my number once each week. They also discovered Sister Rober's dance and choreography skills and asked her to add some senior missionaries as swing dancers in the number.  They have also provided a YPM dance partner for her to be part of the number. We have been practicing for the show ever since we arrived.  Here are some pictures from a few rehearsals.

Here is a video of the Brass Band. They play from a horse drawn carriage at several locations on the property.

These are the YPM singers and dancers.

A blessing of serving here is to be so close to a temple.  We can walk there in ten minutes from our house.  It has been restored to look exactly like the temple the Saints built with much sacrifice while they were here.  They completed the temple in November of 1845 and began their exodus from here on February 4, 1846.  It was only used for all of the available ordinances for this short time.  It sits on top of the hill above the river and is visible for miles around in this fairly flat country.  It is truly a beautiful building.  The temple was finished in 2002.  The restoration of the other sites we serve in began in the 1960-1970 time period.

We are enjoying seeing this part of the country.  There are farm lands in much of the surrounding area. Corn is king here.  They grow a variety that is used to feed animals.  I thought I was in for a treat of fresh sweet corn but it looks like that won't happen. When we first arrived, many of the farms were just dirt.  We are now starting to see the corn begin to grow.  The farms rely totally on rain for moisture.  That hasn't been a problem lately.  Many of the houses here have very large grass yards.  Everyone seems to have their ride-on John Deere mower.  The grass grows rapidly with the rain showers followed by sunny times.  There are no block walls between properties.  You can see the whole neighborhood from your back yard.

We are seeing many things for the first time.  I have now seen my first cardinal.  They are one of the prettiest birds I have ever seen.

I find it interesting also to be on the banks of the Mississippi River.  In our wagon tours, the guides teach the guests it is 2340 miles long.  There always seems to be something interesting on the river. Many of the crops and other industrial materials and commodities are moved on this river.  In the early days of Nauvoo, it was the main way of new converts arriving in town from the missionary work taking place in England and other parts of Europe.  It is always "alive" with some kind of activity.  Here is an example from a morning bike ride I took a few weeks ago.

We are excited about the summer season here and know we will find the energy to make it through the longer (and hotter) days and performance schedules.  We are loving the work, living in such an historic place and testifying of our Savior Jesus Christ.

Here are some other photos for the month.  The grounds are so beautiful!