Saturday, October 21, 2017

Almost Halfway There!!

It's unreal to think that in a couple of weeks we will have completed half our mission.  We have truly loved it here and we are so grateful to the Lord for sending us to the California San Jose Mission and specifically to Fremont.
Originally we were a little disappointed that we were not sent to a foreign country.  Little did we know we WERE.  There is so much diversity here in Fremont that I'm not sure you'd find the same in other places.  We love getting to know East Indians, Filipinos, Tongans, Samoans, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Afghans, Latinos from all over and a few Caucasians.  It's been such a blessing to be able to meet with these dear people and learn about their customs and traditions.  We had a wonderful time last night with this dear family at Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights.  We love them so much and pray that some day very soon they will join the church.

We have also loved getting to know and rejoice in their new membership in the church with this sweet young couple.  Bharath and Sneha were baptized about a month ago.  Their love for each other is so evident.  After the baptism, Bharath gave Sneha a diamond ring and told her that "As a diamond is forever, so will our love be."  He is such a romantic and we are so grateful that we had the opportunity to meet with and teach them the gospel and now we'll be forever friends!

Sweet Gloria was also baptized a little over a month ago.  She is just 19 and joined her twin sister Noelia as a member of the church!  Noelia was baptized a year ago and it has been such a wonderful experience to see these two strong young women grow in the gospel.

I can't forget our incredible YSA's in institute.  Sadly, I do not have a photo of all of them--I'll work on that for the blog post before we get home ;).  We love them dearly and look forward to seeing them each Wednesday night.  They truly bring a lot of joy into our lives.  Here's a picture of sweet Sariah stirring the caramel sauce for dessert one night.  Let's just say their kitchen is not very well equipped for things like this and this was the smallest pan we could find.  She was such a good sport and the caramel turned out great!

Sariah has become just like a daughter to us.  She walks around Lake Elizabeth with me, takes care of inviting the YSA's to activities, suggests people for us to visit and is my helper in the kitchen for Institute dinners.  I love this girl!!

Last but not least, life would not be complete with out these dear elders and sisters who serve in our zone.  We grow to love them so much that it is excruciatingly painful to see them go home or get transferred.  I'm so excited to get home and settled so that as they attend BYU or BYU-I or come to Salt Lake for any reason, they have a place to come.  Our family is growing by leaps and bounds because I truly look forward to spending time in the celestial kingdom with them.  They make us so happy and we learn so much from their examples and wisdom.  I don't think it will happen in my lifetime but just once I would love to be able to expound from the scriptures and teach with the power and authority these young people do.  I know how much Heavenly Father loves his missionaries because I know how much I love them!  Please pray for their (and missionaries all over the world) success.  They work so tirelessly and strive to be so obedient as they work to build the Lord's kingdom.  We are still working on our goal to add 40 new members to the Fremont Stake by the end of the year.  So far we have 17.  We appreciate your prayers in our behalf as we work diligently to bring this about.
On a personal note, we are doing really well here.  We love our landlady and enjoy a beautiful apartment.  Our health is good and we've seen a miracle--Elder McDonald has not needed any allergy medication at all.  Our family at home is doing well with a few minor bumps in the road but all in all, we know how much Heavenly Father loves us and that he is blessing us mightily.  If anyone out there is questioning whether or not to serve a senior mission, I can say with no hesitation, "Just do it."  The mission becomes what you make of it.  You can be as busy as you want to be.  There is so much work to do, most days we fall into bed and sleep as soon as our head hits the pillow.  Your love for others grows exponentially and we are having experiences here that I wouldn't trade for anything!!  We love you and look forward to the next 9 months. (Hopefully I'll post again before then!)

Sister and Elder McDonald

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Ducks for a Buck

     The end of April the missionaries were asked to help at a fundraiser here in Fremont called "Ducks for a Buck".  The Kiwanis club sponsors it and donates the proceeds to several different non-profit organizations in the city.  They have food and booths at Central Park.  They also have a fun activity where people can "purchase" little rubber duckies with numbers on the bottom for a chance to win prizes.  In the morning, the missionaries tied rubber pool noodles together to use as a corral for the ducks.  In the afternoon, the corral was pushed out into Lake Elizabeth and a dump truck backed up to the dock to dump about 6000 duckies into the lake.  As soon as the truck backed out, a fire truck backed in and a fireman used his fire hose to squirt the ducks out into the water.  At the lakeside portion of the noodles was a little tunnel just big enough for a duck to fit through.  The fireman squirted until about 10 of the ducks made it through the tunnel.  First prize was $2000!  If you're really lucky (and no one  has been in 23 years), your duck has a preselected random number and is the first to go through.  That prize is a new car!!  It was so fun to watch and except for about 100 duckies escaping, it was well organized.
     Elder McDonald and I were asked to man a booth about Family History.  Sadly, more people were interested in the Republic Services (garbage removal services) than about their families but we did here some incredible stories about secret families, long lost relatives, etc.  One of the organizers of the fundraiser came to the booth before we began and told us his son would be there and he'd have him come to our booth to visit.  His son Nathan is severely handicapped with what I believe is cerebral palsy, is in a motorized wheel chair and has a caregiver 24 hours a day.  He can operate his chair, computer and phone with one finger but needs help eating.  He has a wonderful sense of humor and has been studying to become a minister in a fellowship here in Fremont because he loves the Lord and feels he has a calling to help other people.
   Nathan did come to our booth and visited with me and the sisters.  We told him about Family History and he told us some fun stories about his family.  His father is from Syria and his mother is Brazilian.  We talked about the church a little and I was inspired to give him a Book of Mormon.  His caregiver took it and I truly thought she would just throw it away.  He stayed at our booth for a while until his dad wanted him to go visit some others.  I sent Elder McDonald to get some information from him thinking we could at least visit or send him an email telling him how much we enjoyed meeting him.  Sadly, all we got was an email, and one we couldn't read well so Nathan just became a sweet memory to us.
  For the month of May, the mission has set a goal of one baptism per companionship before the end of the month.  It has been a little discouraging because it's harder to find people that will actually follow through with their commitments than you think.  Well, to make a long story a little shorter, we received a text from the Mission Peak Elders saying they had a baptismal commitment.  A few days later, we received another text saying they were passing off this commitment to the sisters because this investigator actually lives in our Central Park Ward.  Guess who it is!!  It's Nathan!  He has set a date for May 27th and is so excited.  He attended Institute with us last night and had a great time.  We played Mormon Family Feud and my favorite answer of the night was to the question; "Name a Book of Mormon Hero".  It really touched my heart when Nathan answered, "Joseph Smith".  It is a true principle that we should never judge if anyone will be interested and if there is a even a little interest, to follow up.  You never know what miracle may be waiting and everyone should be given the opportunity.
    I know I have not been very good at posting on the blog.  For the most part, we do a lot of studying, service, cooking (for the Elders, Sisters, and Institute) and attending meetings.  We also do a lot of visiting less actives, homebound sisters (who really love us!) and worrying about our dear Young Single Adults.  We're getting ready to teach a Missionary Preparation Class starting on the 21st so we, along with our young adults preparing for a mission can learn how to be awesome missionaries.
   We're not always sure what effect we are having here but the blessings to us are more than we could ask for.  It gave us great joy to be able to attend the temple with one of our YSA as he took out his endowments in anticipation of serving in the Alpine German mission.  We've had the blessing to get to know a sweet sister missionary from Italy sent here for 3 months from the Temple Square mission. We were able to FaceTime with dear Emilie from France as she opened her mission call to the new Paris Temple Square mission.  I think we'll be taking a European vacation not long after our return!!  We have a lot of fun as we get to meet and love each Young Single Adult who attends institute and even those we just continue to invite because we know how much Heavenly Father loves them.  Each week we have a different group because schools start and end, they get married, they move out of the area, they get new jobs, etc.  We truly love each one of them.
     Saturday, we're going up to San Francisco for a tour of the Church Historical Sites.  One of the senior couples here knows a guide so we're excited for that.  We don't have a lot of interaction with the other missionaries short of FHE once a month because we're so far away from any of the others.
     Anyway, thanks for reading my epistle.  Thanks for being our dear friends and family.  We think of you all and love you so much.  Congratulations to our two college graduates, D. J. and Emily.  We're so proud of you!

Lots of love,

Elder and Sister McDonald
 With the elders between Saturday Conference meetings
 Elder Terana vs. Elder McDonald at ping pong.
 Dumpin' the duckies!

 Fireman with fire hose!!
Zone after service project.  Love these guys!

Sunday, March 26, 2017


Hello Everyone!!

Life is good in Fremont!!  Kristen asked what exactly we do here so here goes.  Elder McDonald is doing amazingly well with his sign language!  Me, not so much.  I just can't find the motivation to study or learn it.  I can recognize more and more words however, so maybe as we get more steady in the mission, that motivation will come.  Once a week, the ASL Elders come for an hour and give him a lesson.  Right now, we study (probably not as much as we should but we're working on it).  I'm reading Jesus the Christ and studying our Preach My Gospel Handbook. We visit YSA, attend some of their activities and visit members of the ward as directed by the ward council.

At our last zone training meeting (we're learning all kinds of acronyms:  ZTM, ZC, STEPP, DL, ZL, ABC'S, ETC.) we brainstormed things we could do to find more investigators.  Our goal is to hit Fabulous 40 (baptisms by June); so far we have 6.  It's going to take a lot of finding and help from the ward members to get close.  It was suggested that each time we find an investigator, that we send a group text #fireinfremont to light the fire under each one of us to be bold and open our mouths.  We're learning quickly the importance of member involvement both in finding and retaining our new members.

Last week, we went to the Family History Center to get some information on how to use this as a tool in Missionary Work.  President Perry (our Stake President) suggested having "Ancestor" parties and inviting member and non-members over to your house, supply pizza and have them bring their laptops and the name of one of their ancestors with all the information they have on that ancestor (birthdate, place, marriage date,place, death date, place, etc.)  If people are already members of the church, they can use Family Search, Ancestry for free.  They just need to have their member number (on their temple recommend or you can ask the ward clerk).  If they are non-members, it might be worth it to find a family history center that has computers set up (and people who can help) so they can get on the websites for free.  

While we were there, we met a consultant that asked where we were serving and when we told her Central Park Ward, she said her daughter lived there, was less active but had a daughter attending activity days and wanted to go to church on Easter so she could sing "Gethsemane" with her friends.  She didn't know where the church was or what time so we took some cookies over with a little card filled with the information.  We gave her name to the full-time missionaries (oh wait, that's what we are!) to see what they could do.

Tuesday night, I did not want to cook and we were running some errands so we stopped for dinner at P. F. Changs.  We met a cute server named Jasmine that did not attend church but was raised Catholic.  We invited her to come to Institute and sadly she had a date the next night but has agreed to come and bring her sister this Wednesday.  (#FireinFremont) I don't know if anything will come but it was pretty exciting.  Elder Clark  asked if she realized she was going to find "a whole new world".  He'd been dying to say that for a few days.  It took me a little while to figure out his joke.

We had our first Zone Conference on Thursday.  We drove up with the Elders to Pleasanton for the meetings and to get their cars inspected.  We're in kind of a mess because Elder Watson has lost his driving privileges for the rest of his mission and Elder Clark has hurt his foot quite badly playing basketball so he is now wearing a boot and cannot drive. However, the meetings were incredible, Elder McDonald and I had to do role playing (luckily President Mella had us act like investigators) and we got to see a sneak preview of the #PrinceofPeace video that is the Church's new Easter Campaign, similar to the #lightuptheworld at Christmas.  The video is only 2 minutes long but as usual beautifully done and quite breathtaking.  I can''t wait to see it again and it is designed to be shared on social media.  There will be additional videos each day the week before Easter.  It will be magnificent!

Friday we went for our first service project helping at the Tri-Cities Foodbank/Thrift Store.  Fridays we'll be helping to sort and price the new donations, the proceeds from which go to the Foodbank.  Kaiser Permanente Hospital donates their leftover food and I believe a few other organizations do also.  Every day they have volunteers go around the warehouse and fill grocery carts with certain items and then the "clients" come and pick them up.  They prepare about 150 sack lunches and snacks for the homeless everyday.  We'll be working there on Friday mornings and Tuesday afternoons.

Today was ward conference and we had some great meetings.  Right after Sacrament meeting, one of the Stake YW leaders caught Dad and I and asked if we could go into YW for the last 15 minutes of class and bear our testimonies about the Joseph Smith story.  I suspect we'll need to study hard and keep a repertoire of short talks we can give on a minute's notice.  I'm going to have so much knowledge my head might explode!

The General Women's conference last night was wonderful.  We had the broadcast at the church and then the Stake RS Presidency prepared dinner and the Stake Presidency served.  Elder McDonald was there to help and looked pretty cute in my new red apron!

We've been trying to help an investigator find a new place to live.  Elder McDonald and another member went with her yesterday to look at a place closer to her work.  It is one bedroom, a private bath, has only a microwave, a refrigerator and a private entrance for $900.  Pretty unreal.  I feel really sorry for her--she's isolated herself from her family by becoming Christian, she's 50 years old, alone, broke and she's afraid of joining the Church because she feels it will isolate her even more because she would like to get married again and have some companionship.  The odds of finding a single, Indian Mormon guy are kind of slim.  

We went up to the Oakland Temple a couple of Sundays ago and had a wonderful time.  We took some new converts and went to a fireside called, "Why I Believe".  Several new members from the Oakland Mission had been asked to bear their testimonies and tell their conversion stories.  It was a very powerful evening.  I suspect we'll be attending those often!!

Well, that's pretty much been our week.  Tomorrow is P-Day and I've gotten over my objections to using Sister Flores's washer and dryer so we'll be doing laundry and doing a little cleaning.  Grocery shopping is calling my name and then we'll attend FHE with the young single adults. Hopefully, Jacob, a server we met at Red Lobster a few weeks ago will come. (We seem to have really great success when we eat out.) Tuesday night, the elders are coming to dinner and Elder McDonald and I will be addressing and sending invites to Institute to the young single adults we haven't been able to contact yet.  I also want to make up some cards promoting the #princeofpeace campaign to give to the kids.  Wednesday will be Institute, Thursday District Meeting, Friday ThriftStore and the rest of the time will be spent studying and helping where we can. AND taking Jack (the dog) for a walk!

We love you guys!!  
Have a great week!!  

Elder and Sister McDonald

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Tomorrow we reach the one month mark!!  It's hard to believe time has gone so quickly.  I've baked more cookies in the last month than I have in the past 30 years (it helps to have daughters who like to bake).  Life here in Fremont is quite lovely.  The weather has been really nice--we've seen a lot of sunshine and while it can be a little chilly in the mornings, it has basically been sweater weather.

The diversity in this city is unreal. As of 2010, Caucasians made up one-fourth of the population.  Fremont is home to the largest community of Afghan Americans and has a huge population of Asian Indians.  We passed by two high schools after school one afternoon and did not see one Caucasian child.  The sweet couple we live with is from El Salvador and there are lots of Filipinos.

The traffic, too, is unreal.  I have not driven since we've been here.  We're finding however, that there are a few major streets that take us mostly where we want to go and that has helped.  Our stake area is huge and so is our ward.  The stake covers 5 cities (think suburbs of Salt Lake) and it's not unusual to drive 8 miles from our home to a member of our ward.

We've been serving with some incredible young elders and sisters.  It's transfer time this week so we're really sad to say goodbye to a few of them.  We've had the opportunity to go on teaching appointments with them and met some sweet investigators and new members here. I'm guessing that in the mission field, it's not that unusual, but in our ward we have a set of sisters, a set of elders and us.  The elders also serve in the deaf branch, interpret and teach.

Craig is coming along well with his sign language, me not so much. We have a list of over 200 young single adults in our stake, not including the YSA Ward in Hayward.  We've been trying to track down and invite (hence the cookies) and been a little successful.  We met a new YSA working in the local Red Lobster who introduced himself and said he'd like to attend Institute.  We hope he'll come!

Here are a few photos!  I actually figured it out!!

Have a lovely week--we love you all!!

Elder and Sister McDonald

Sweet Sister Doney and Sister Perez

Elders Clark and Watson

Elder and Sister McDonald at the MTC
A Few of the Senior Missionaries at the MTC

Friday, February 17, 2017

We found our way to San Jose!

After five relatively unterrifying days in the MTC, we drove home, spent the night in our own bed, packed up the van and headed out.  We met some wonderful people in our district at the MTC and attended incredible classes some of which were taught by young people young enough to be our grandchildren.  We were able to see our niece at almost every meal and loved seeing almost as many beautiful young sisters as young elders there.  We were in a group of 111 senior missionaries, a group that varies from about 50 to 120 each week.

We were able to spend Saturday evening and Sunday morning with Brandon and Kiley and kids.  Sunday we drove to Monterey and spent the night at Meghan's before heading to San Jose. When we arrived at our new apartment in Fremont, our sweet landlords were here to greet us with fresh flowers, cookies and a basket of fruit.  In our refrigerator, we found eggs, tortillas and milk.  They are so excited to have us here, they call us their "miracle" couple.  Sister Flores is 77 years old.  Brother Flores struggles with dementia but is so happy all the time.  Jack is their little dog and allows us to take him on walks each morning.  He is a small substitute for Tony and Austen.

Monday night we enjoyed dinner with our new Stake President and his wife.  He gave us our assignments and we're learning everyday that this is where we're supposed to be.  We have three assignments:  we'll be working with the members of the Central Park family ward, also with the members of the Fremont Deaf Branch and with the YSA in the Institute program.

We attended Institute Wednesday night and Craig already has an assignment to teach for the next 3 weeks while the regular teacher will be in Utah welcoming a new grand baby.  I'll be heliport to provide the dinners on occasion (they feed these kids dinner first, then class, then dessert).  We'll be scouting out the young people not attending and encouraging them to attend.  There are about 200n on the rolls and about 15 attending.  There will not be a shortage of work for us there.

We've also met with the ward mission leader, 2 elders working in the ASL branch (it appears we'll be learning a foreign language after all!) and the sisters working in the home ward.  We had our first assignment to meet with a sister unable to attend church but who has her doctorate in French Literature.  We met with her today and found a very sharp 97-year-old homebound sister who asked us to visit often and wants me to speak French!  Her son is a returned missionary who does not attend (not sure why), his wife and youngest daughter attend but his two oldest sons and daughter do not come.  We just plan on loving them like crazy and seeing if we can get the boys to Institute.

We're going to dinner on Saturday night with the Stake President and the bishop of the Central Park family to hopefully get some more info on what they need there.  Sunday is filled with meetings from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., including 2 ward council meetings and 2 sets of ward meetings.  It will be busy but we're loving it.

We hope all is well with you.  Please know we think of you all the time and miss you.  Have a wonderful week and we'll post again soon!

P S.  I'd post photos but can't figure out how.  As soon as I do, get ready to be dazzled!

With lots of love,

Elder and Sister McDonald

Sunday, January 22, 2017

15 days!

Time is flying by!  We're still trying to get things wrapped up here so we can get ready to go.  Our Sacrament meeting talks are almost complete.  Totes are packed, we only need to pick up a few more items, we've got our new address and photos of our new home.  It's getting harder and harder to think about leaving our family and our dogs. It's strange to think we no longer have ward callings.  We are, however, so excited to be going!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Almost There!

We've been making progress!  We've purchased a new minivan to carry our belongings (maybe it's a good thing we're not limited to just two large suitcases!).  We've purchased all the new clothing we'll need, we have several bins packed with bathroom, kitchen and bedroom supplies.  Our sacrament meeting talks are in the process of being prepared, driver's license renewal scheduled for tomorrow and family history pedigree charts are printed and ready to go.  Life is good!!  Just a few more things left on our list:  taxes, dispensing of "family" business, mending of new fencešŸ˜¬, wills, etc.  Hopefully we'll be able to finish up by the time we go and if not, the list will still be here when we return.  we're getting excited to see just what the next few months will hold for us!