Sunday, July 28, 2013

Week Four

We’ve been getting feedback all week from missionaries around the Orlando area to identify Portuguese speaking people in their wards and the reports continue to come in. Kirk has continued to work on changing the pdf stake & ward boundary maps to the same size scale so we can merge them like a puzzle to get a mission-wide map of ward and stake boundaries. It’s progressing, but it's been slow to find time to work on it.
Jan talking to Sisters during a break in training.

Jan put together a powerpoint presentation about stress management for the trainers meeting on Friday, and Kirk helped with the powerpoint formatting & slide advance. The picture at the left shows Jan talking to some sisters during a break at the meeting. 

The whole group of trainers gathered at noon for a picture with the Mission President & his wife just before lunch (below).  
Experienced missionaries who will help train the new missionaries who arrive next week.
The senior couples serving at the FOM office with us.
This week we’ll welcome more than 20 new missionaries and we’ll say goodbye to 15 who are finishing their missions and 2 who got their visas to other countries. One has been our neighbor, and we’ll miss him so much, as he now goes to Brazil.

This picture shows us with the other senior couples in the mission office, whom we have really enjoyed getting to know and work with. They have helped us so much in getting settled here.

Friday we had a great evening going to the Orlando Temple and seeing a family of five get sealed together for eternity. Their two sons were about 8 and 15 years old, their daughter was about 12, and they were able to understand much of the divine and eternal nature of the sealing ceremony that was performed to link them together as an eternal family, even after this life is over. One of the elders who taught and baptized them a year ago was there to witness the ceremony. He finishes his mission this coming week and will return home then.

Spanish moss on roadside trees

Spanish moss grows on many of the older trees alongside the roadways and adds its beauty to the dense foliage. We’ve enjoyed the beauty of so much green vegetation here.

Sister B with a Mexican hat 

Our senior district went to dinner at a Mexican restaurant on Saturday, celebrating Sister B’s birthday and bidding farewell to another couple who finishes this coming week and will return to their home. We love them !

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Week Three

Birds in our wayside pond.
We tried to make time to walk for exercise this week, and made it three times. It’s beautiful in the early morning and soon becomes hot and humid. This picture shows a pond along our walkway. There are always a few white birds at this pond (White Ibis? Baby Storks?). At first we thought they were statues because they stand so still, with no ripples in the water, but on the way back we saw they had moved. So now we know.

We met with the Mission Pres about working with the Portuguese-speaking people here. He wants us to get more information about where they are and how to reach them. We’re told that their population declined greatly during the economic slowdown. We often hear Portuguese at grocery stores, but so far have identified only a few dozen Brazilian members among the wards in South Orlando. Most have gone into the English-speaking wards. We estimate there could be about 16,000 Brazilians living in Orange County, mostly in South Orlando, compared to about 300,000 in all of Florida (mostly in the Southeast). They are overshadowed here in South Orlando by more than a million Brazilian tourists that come to Florida each year, for the theme parks, sightseeing and recreation, and shopping. We’re told that prices here are about half of those in Brazil for many items, so this is a great shopping destination. We like to send referrals to Brazil, but we get more excited over Brazilians who actually live here. We have met with our Portuguese missionaries and ward & stake leaders to help us understand the Brazilian demographics in our mission, which will be ongoing in the months ahead.

Jan worked nearly full time this week on medical concerns. It looks like we’ll lose a couple of missionaries this week over injuries and to receive treatment. Most of our other sick and injured are continuing here, setting some great examples of faith and perseverance! One elder passed 3 kidney stones within a week, with only a few hours at a hospital, and has faithfully continued his missionary work on splits with young men in his stake to increase the coverage for him and his companion. Jan checked the swollen knee of another whom we met biking back to his apartment. Kirk, the elder’s companion, and our mission accountant gave him a blessing and Jan gave him a brace & instructions on icing and treatments for the coming week. Jan follows up with her medical contacts regularly until they recover or return home.

We went to the Orlando Temple this week with our seniors district, and bid farewell to several who are returning home. We need more senior missionaries to fill in for those who are leaving, particularly office specialists, member leader support, and employment specialists. Let us know if you want to explore this opportunity to serve in sunny Orlando!

Sugar Mill Ruins at Ponce de Leon Park
Yesterday on our prep day we went with our mission accountant & office secretary in the mission truck & trailer to the Ponce de Leon Park, kind of close to the Atlantic coast. The park has ruins of an 1800’s era sugar mill, and more importantly, the Fountain of Youth. Jan enquired of an elderly lady using a walker if she was there to visit the fountain of youth. She replied that she’d been coming there for many years, but it just doesn’t work. Pois é. The next picture shows the mission accountant, secretary, and Jan by the dried-up fountain, which is now diverted to a nearby pool (for external use only).

Sign at the Now-Dry Fountain of Youth
After the park the four of us drove near
Accountant, Secretary, and Jan @ Fountain of Youth
the coast to convert a former senior couple apartment to one for a pair of young missionaries by exchanging furniture, adding another desk, etc. A tenant in the adjacent building introduced herself and asked if we were moving in, so we explained we were just preparing the apartment for younger missionaries. She kindly offered to donate an end table & a pair of lamps, which we gratefully accepted for use in some of the other missionary apartments. It’s nice to meet good people! 

We spent the rest of Saturday visiting a few sick missionaries scattered around the mission and delivering white boards to some others for planning. We are continually refreshed by the faith, courage, and diligence of our wonderful missionaries! 

Today at church we were glad to meet Brazilians from three separate households in our Spanish/ Portuguese ward, plus a family visiting Orlando from Sao Paulo. Visited another dear Brazilian couple after church who attend an English-speaking ward and lived for years in Utah. Our members are so kind and supportive!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Week Two

Sisters with the Mission Pres. & His Wife

Here’s a picture of our Mission Pres & his wife with two sisters who gave us a great lesson from Preach My Gospel on July 4th. The foot boot on the left one resulted from being hit by a car while standing on the sidewalk. Sometimes walking can be as dangerous as driving.

We attended a zone meeting and a district meeting this week. The teaching by the Senior Missionaries was outstanding. The three elders below are the Portuguese-speaking elders that are in our district and live close to us. The two at the right are from Brazil and the other one is waiting for his visa to go to Brazil. They are great and we really enjoy them.
Our Portuguese Speaking Elders

This has been a week of much learning for us. We finally figured out how to electronically send MRI image files to the Salt Lake missionary medical office. Sis. Nielson & the First Lady (as she’s called by the mission accountant) had training on mental health issues for missionaries. So far they’ve dealt with flu, colds, stomach problems, accidents, kidney stones, insect bites, allergies, etc. We have both enjoyed getting to know our missionaries. We had different sets of missionaries over for dinner two nights last week, and are planning on two other sets this coming week.  

Our New Spanish-Speaking
Elder with His Parents
Kirk started learning about mission cars & bikes (repairs, billing & records, accident reports, etc.) He also hooked up an office scanner to a couple of computers to scan to pdf's. We’ve had some torrential rains several days in a row, and have taken some of the bike elders to their meetings. One of those meetings was a Saturday night mission farewell. The picture at the right shows the missionary with his parents. He is the first elder we know of who will go directly to his mission without first attending the MTC. He is already fluent in Spanish and has often taught missionary lessons with the Elders here in Orlando.  

We’ve really enjoyed our ward here.  It turns out that nearly all of the ward speaks Spanish, and the meetings are all in Spanish. Kirk bore his testimony last Sunday in Portuguese, though, and most everyone seemed to understand ok. Kirk’s still working to understand Spanish, however, and everyone speaks English to Jan. One sister handed Jan an English Relief Society manual last week.  Today a Sister was showing Jan the lesson and the quotes in Spanish so she could learn. We both miss a lot of what’s being said, but we’re trying to learn.  Our work during the week in the mission office is all in English, so at least we understand that as well as we can.

We were able to go to a Baptism service yesterday for a woman from China who has been in the US for 20 years and found that the gospel of Christ is just what she needed. It was a wonderful meeting.

Yesterday we bought a dedicated GPS for our car because our cell phones lose charge while driving if we use the GPS while we’re talking. As we checked out of Costco, the doorman saw our missionary badges and our GPS box and remarked that he thought that all we needed was the Bible to keep us from getting lost!  Jan said that’s true, but right now we still need both kinds of guidance. We'll try to post again when we can.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Getting Ready ...

Kirk & Jan Nielson

Our Background

We are Kirk and Janice Nielson. We have lived in Salt Lake City, Utah since 1979, when we moved there from Richland, Washington, where we moved in early 1975 upon finishing graduate school at BYU in Provo, Utah. Jan is a Registered Nurse. She worked in pediatrics at St Lukes Hospital in Boise, Idaho; at the BYU Health Center in Provo; and at several nursing homes in Salt Lake as a medicare case manager. When our children were young, Jan was a stay-at-home mom. Kirk worked at Battelle PNNL in Richland and at URS Corp and its legacy companies (Dames & Moore and Rogers & Associates) as a consulting scientist on radioactive material characterization, risks, regulations, and disposal. We have both enjoyed our work over the years, even passionately, but more importantly we have enjoyed our children and our church activity, which have been most important to us. We belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, commonly referred to as the Mormon Church, and as Sis. Dibb put it last October at general conference, we know it, we live it, and we love it! 

Kirk & Jan surrounded by our five children, their spouses, 
& 10 grandchildren.

Our family includes five children, their spouses, and ten grandchildren, all of whom we love greatly. Our lives have been blessed by the kindness and mercies of our Father in Heaven, to whom we owe all that we have and are (actually, just the good parts). We have looked forward, for years, to retiring and serving the Lord on an LDS mission, and that time finally came on June 10, 2013 when we started this mission. We love the Lord because he has loved us; He has been merciful and forgiving of our sins & weaknesses as we have worked to repent and come unto Him; and He has answered our prayers, protected, and inspired us in the big and small decisions of life. 

Getting Ready
Because of Kirk's 1967-1969 LDS mission to Brazil (Sao Paulo, Brasilia,
and Rio) as a 19- to 21-year old, he requested that we serve in Brazil again if possible. We received a mission call to the Brazil, Sao Paulo East mission to begin Oct 7, 2012. Kirk set up his retirement for Oct 1, 2012 and we began studying Portuguese and waiting for our visas. After many delays and prayers, we finally came to understand that we needed much more than a week of "retired time" to get ready, to learn & re-learn Portuguese, and to get our house in order. Kirk finally retired Jan 4, 2013, and we continued the visa wait. We took a Bahama cruise in April of 2013, where we talked (even in Portuguese) to a number of Brazilians about our upcoming mission and exchanged e-mails with some. We went to church in Miami, where the bishop told us we could find plenty of Brazilians in Florida without having to go to Brazil. We also made some new friends from the Orlando area during the cruise. 
On returning, we came to understand that we should accept a change in the mission call. During this time, we learned that some dear friends were going to preside over the Florida Orlando Mission. Jan, (more inspired) immediately started praying to go to Orlando, while Kirk (slower to catch on) continued to pray for the Brazil visas. Finally the morning of May 22, we exchanged a flurry of calls & e-mails with various LDS mission people to request reassignment to the Florida Orlando Mission. Our reassignment to Orlando was soon approved, and we got written confirmation of our call to Orlando on June 4.

Our Mission

Our Senior MTC district, bound for Russia, Florida,
 Canada, & Oklahoma, with our Instructor. These
people made our MTC time fun & enjoyable.
We started our mission on June 10, 2013, when we entered the LDS Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo, UT for our training & orientation. At check-in there, we learned that our papers showed Kirk still being scheduled for the Brazil Sao Paulo East mission but Jan now listed for the Florida Orlando Mission. The Lord indeed has a sense of humor! After the MTC week in Provo, we came home for the weekend and spent the following week in Salt Lake for medical training and a day of computer training.

We learned from the mission president that our apartment in Orlando would not be available until July 2, so we could take our time getting there. Jan worked hard to find something we could do with the extra time! We left home Monday, June 24 and arrived in Orlando on July 1. We stopped along the way for a great visit with Kirk's nephew's family in Olathe Kansas; enjoyed a great night with Jan's Niece & husband in Peoria, Illinois; and participated in sessions at three temples (Kansas City, Nauvoo, and Nashville) along the way. We also visited the temple sites at Winter Quarters and Atlanta, but they were not open during our times there. At the cemetery at Winter Quarters, Jan found the grave for an infant son of Joseph Fielding, her great-great-grandfather.

We thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Orlando, and have enjoyed our first week in Orlando as we've participated in a mission leadership meeting, our zone training meeting, and a July-4 dinner & farewell for some other senior couples over in Titusville. Our mission president was kind to let us stay at his home for our first night here. After our apartment lease was signed on Tuesday, the Portuguese-speaking elders helped move some furniture in for us, which was kindly donated by several people in our zone. Our elders are awesome! They live close by, and have treated us very well, even giving us some chocolates that one of them received from his family in Brazil.

Jan gave a presentation on stress management in our Tuesday meeting and Kirk gave one on emergency preparedness for hurricanes (we're in hurricane season) and reducing risks from lightning. We've seen heavy rains most of our days here so far, accompanied by lots of lightning, but only light winds. Jan also gave other medical presentations yesterday and spends a fair amount of time in medical support at meetings and by phone to missionaries here in our mission, mostly counseling about symptoms and referrals for medical tests and treatment, and offering encouragement. We're looking forward to our first Sunday here tomorrow. We'll be going to a combined Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking ward. Today has been our preparation day (P-day), differing from the Monday P-days observed by the young missionaries.