Sunday, December 29, 2013

Week Twenty Six

With encouragement of our portuguese elders, I finally posted my profile on You can check it out at I also got this layout for pass-along cards with the profile address. Kind of handy to give people we meet so they can read my testimony and pursue more information at their leisure. I plan to print some up soon. 

Last Sunday we went to the Olympia Ward's 8am sacrament meeting for the confirmation of Adriana, who was baptized the day before. We then attended the meetings of our Windy Ridge spanish ward.

Sis Nielson with final presents, and Sis's Danes and Vaden

Monday we left the mission office a little early to get some food ready for the Sr missionary Christmas dinner with our home evening group, and then went out to Conway to the Bevans' apartment for the dinner and a white elephant exchange, which was very tasty and a lot of fun! 

Saying bye to Elder Curtis
Tuesday we went to the office early and only spent a few hours there to pick up and sort tuesday's last pre-Christmas mail to get it out to our missionaries at their apartments. We also said goodbye to Elder Curtis, assistant to Pres. Berry, who finished his mission on thursday, about a week early, so he could get home for school startup at Utah State, where he's on a football scholarship. I knew he was taller than us, but didn't realize he was so much bigger until I looked at this picture when posting it. We'll watch for him in Utah sports news ... I think he'll do well!

Some of our missionaries getting their Christmas mail
Each senior couple took the mail for a zone or smaller area and delivered them to the missionary apartments, since they couldn't be forwarded in time by mail as they normally are. There were a lot of boxes, so we had a car full. We got most delivered by Tuesday night, but couldn't reach one pair even by phone until wednesday night. As it turned out, those elders didn't get their boxes until thursday morning because they were involved in a serious auto accident on Christmas day, and miraculously they and the other car's occupant all walked away with only bumps, bruises, and air-bag burns. Both cars were totaled, and one was rolled upside-down. We were glad to see them looking pretty good on Thursday! Elder Willard, a Portuguese elder by us also had an accident this week on his bike, saved only by blessings and wearing his helmet. Good to remember, bikers! 
Opening Christmas presents

We had a wonderful Christmas. Here we are opening our presents. We took this picture with the timer on our new camera, which we got to replace the red Nikon that we've had on the boat and in the dust for years. It started growing mold or something on the inside of the screen, probably helped by the high humidity here.  
As always, Jan decorated our inside doors with christmas cards from y'all so we could enjoy them the past few weeks. It made our apartment downright festive! 
Speaking of Christmas cards, we printed ours on-line, but ran out the week before Christmas. I just uploaded the same pictures to the same template and ordered more, which we picked up and gave out. Unfortunately I forgot to fill in the signature line the 2nd time, so instead of saying from Kirk and Janice Nielson, they kept the default signature, "from the Hopewells". To any of you who got a christmas card from the Hopewells with pictures of the Orlando temple, some senior missionaries, and Lake Eola, it was probably from us. Sorry! We learned this when a missionary here thanked Sis Nielson for the card she handed her and then asked who the Hopewells were.
Christmas morning on Lake Debra

We went for a walk Christmas morning to try out our new camera, and took the above picture of Lake Debra to show that it really exists. We live on Lake Debra Drive, and have been asked if such a lake exists, since it's not labeled on Google maps. Also got a picture of the horse fountain on Hiawassee Rd with its Christmas wreaths, and of the winter flowers and palm trees.

Elder Delgado with Jan and me
Elder Delgado, Eric, and Elder Agor
Saturday we went to two baptisms. The first was in the Poinciana Branch, where Elder Delgado baptized Eric, a mature 14-yr old who's been coming to church for a while and understands the gospel very well for a young man his age. 

Sis's Baker and Salvesen with Jan
Elders Cluff, Sherwin, and Gallo with Carmen after her baptism

The second baptism was in the Pleasant Hill ward, where Elder Sherwin baptized Carmen, a lady who bore her testimony right afterward, along with Xiomara, who was just baptized there last week. Sister Salvesen and Sister Baker sang a duet at the baptism that brought a beautiful spirit. They're awesome!

After the baptisms we picked up Elders Despain and Vailea and went to the Johnsons to give them a second lesson, on the Plan of Salvation. There was a great spirit there ... they said they also felt it while reading the Book of Mormon. We set up their third lesson for next Thursday. It was a great end to a great day and week! What a joy to be here doing the Lord's work, with dedicated missionaries and investigators who are getting baptized and who are progressing toward baptism, reading the scriptures, praying, and anxious to come unto Christ! After just celebrating the birth of our Savior, we have the privilege to invite people to come and hear the fullness of His gospel and partake of it by making covenants with Him to follow Him the rest of their lives. How blessed we are feeling!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Week Twenty Five

Jennifer Hewes, Sis Spreier, Mackenley Dhaiti, Sis Pierce,
and Christopher Jordan 

Last Sunday we went to a baptism in the Lake Reams Ward where three new converts were baptized, all taught by Sis Pierce and Sis Sprier. What a great spirit of joy and rejoicing we felt there with an outpouring of the spirit of Christ as these three came unto Christ with dedication and commitment to follow Him.
We finished a few more area maps this week to help our missionaries identify streets in newly-developing areas that were not shown on their existing maps.

Tuesday and Wednesday we had great visits with the Johnsons, parents of the Elder Johnson who is a missionary in Ben's ward in West Haven, Utah. They're great people, and we felt the Lord's spirit in their home as we talked to them. They accepted an invitation to meet with the missionaries.
Elder and Sister Claire

Elder and Sis Clare joined us last month from Mt Pleasant. They are MLS missionaries and are assigned to the Winter Park ward and are a great addition to our senior district. 

Sis Mummert, Bowman, Godfrey, and Hoffmeier

Sis Mummert joined us on this week from the MTC. She met her new companion at the mission office on wednesday. 

We had a wonderful Christmas Devotional on Friday, with Christmas messages, talent sharing, pictures of all the missionaries, and a great dinner.

After the dinner Santa's helpers distributed the packages that hadn't been forwarded to missionary apartments yet. They filled the floor around a couple of classrooms, in alphabetical piles. The picture shows A thru E.
Elders Gallo, Delgado, and Costa
(our Brazilian Elders) with Jan and me

We got a chance to talk with our three Brazilian elders after the Devotional ... it was a great evening.

Elder Gallo, Xiomara, Elders Cluff, and Sherwin

Saturday morning we attended a baptism in the Hunter's Creek stake where Elder Sherwin baptized Xiomara Cabral ... a dedicated lady and diligent Elders. 

Elders Despain and Vailea, and Adriana

We went to another baptism saturday afternoon in Olympia ward, where Adriana Kogate was baptized by Elder Vailea. It's so uplifting to see such great people entering the waters of baptism and to see the diligent efforts of the Elders who teach them. 

Jan by mission home with poinsettias

Saturday evening we went to 
Celebration, FL with Berrys. It was quite a remembrance for us Utahns to see the first day of winter with 78-degree evening weather. 
Sis Berry and Jan on "snow"

"Snow" falling from overhead boxes

Celebration, FL is a town built 20 yrs ago by Disney to be more town-like than EPCOT (Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow) that they first built. They have hourly "snow-falls", made from soapy spray that slightly resembles snow when sprayed from above in small droplets. Yes, it is slippery. They even had a "skating rink" where kids actually used walkers to navigate on it. 

Fountain play on a warm winter night
Skating rink with walkers

Christmas Tree across the lake in Celebration

Sis Berry checking out a new Mustang
... only because it was the right color.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Week Twenty Four

Here are pictures of our District visit to Ft Christmas Dec.7. Lots of old-time cars, machinery (gas-powered corn grinders & ice cream churns), artisans, tractors, etc. Ft Christmas was a military post founded on Christmas of 1837 for the Second Seminole War and abandoned in March 1838. We got some christmas cards postmarked there with the commemorative postmark for the 36th celebration of the town of Christmas, Florida. 

Sis Allred, Bro. López, Bro. Aponte, and Sis Jackson

Last Saturday after the Ft Christmas activity, we went to a baptism in our Windy Ridge ward, where Bro Aponte was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He bore his testimony afterward about his experience in preparing for that, and we enjoyed a great outpouring of the spirit as he related his feelings about his conversion. He was baptized by our ward mission leader, Bro López, and was taught by Sis Allred and Sis Jackson. 

Our Christmas Tree
Flowers outside our apartment

We got a small Christmas tree that now sits by our front door. It's apartment sized.

We still have nice flowers around our apartment and our neighborhood, in spite of the cold weather in the middle of this week when the highs dipped below the 80's into the mid-70's. But today was warmer again -- we still have to use the air conditioner in the car.

Floridian snow slide at night.

There was a Winter Festival celebration near our apartment last week where they created a mini sledding hill with snow piled against bales of straw. Looked like fun for the kids. Thank goodness for snow-making machinery!  It didn't last very long.

Trying out Gator Bytes 
Taking turns holding the baby alligator

Tuesday after some medical appointments we had lunch with a couple of missionaries at a restaurant that had alligator bytes on the menu and had a baby 'gator to hold. Needless to say, we tried the gator bytes and got pictures of the baby 'gator.  Kind of cold and snake-like, as opposed to warm and fuzzy.

Elder Johnson and Ben

Thursday we finally got to meet Elder Johnson's mom. Ben and Jeana know him because he serves in their area by Ogden, but his parents live here in our mission. She's a great lady, and we're hoping to meet her with her husband next week when he's not at work. Elder Johnson was a hopeful BYU football walk-on, but put that on hold until he serves this mission. A bright young man with a lot of potential!

Sis Heiner, Alexis, and Sis Ward
Elder Despain and Elder Vailea
Today we went to a baptism service for Alexis and Jason, two primary-age children that the missionaries in Olympia have been teaching along with their families. The sisters taught Alexis and Elders Despain and Vailea taught Jason. Jason was baptized by Elder Vailea, but we didn't get a picture of them together.

After the baptism we learned that Bro Viveiros had heart surgery a few weeks ago, so we went to visit them this afternoon. We then went to the Olympia ward's Christmas dinner and met a Brazilian lady who was there as a guest with a Brazilian sister we met several months ago at a Brazilian fireside. Lots of good things happening here. The Lord is hastening the pace of His work, and we're hustling to adapt and keep up. 

Elder Delgado

We just learned that Elder Delgado's mother was baptized in Recife, Brazil last night, Dec 14. This is a wonderful answer to his prayers as well as ours and many others. We are so happy for both of them!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Week Twenty Three

Our new missionaries arriving at the airport
What a great time to be a missionary! The Lord's work is rolling along with great momentum, and it's the best kind of busy that we could ask for! Last monday we received seven new missionaries from the MTC, four elders and three sisters. They're well-prepared missionaries with enthusiasm and resolve and we're glad they are here!
Pres blowing out the candles

Monday was also Pres Berry's birthday. He didn't get time to celebrate other than blowing out his candles!

Tuesday was transfer day, and this time the departing missionaries had a chance to bear testimonies to the new incoming ones and all the others who came in to change companions for new assignments. Pres Berry introduced each new companion assignment, and had pictures and bio's of the newly arrived missionaries. It was a great and uplifting meeting! After the morning meetings everyone had lunch and then loaded their bags to travel to their new areas.  
Tuesday lunch after the transfer meetings
Christmas puzzle at the mission home

Tuesday afternoon we went to the mission home and helped with the dinner for the departing missionaries. The Berrys host a nice dinner for the departing missionaries, where they get a chance to look back on their missionary experience and look forward to what's coming up next for them. 
Elders Romero and Thomas with us

Assistants to Pres Berry
Our ten departing missionaries

This time they had a little time to relax and watch the 17 miracles movie while waiting for dinner and their final interviews with the president. There was also a christmas puzzle and piano playing that made a nice pre-Christmas evening.

We had ten missionaries leave on wednesday morning, one sister and nine elders. It's hard to lose our seasoned mission leaders, but new ones are working hard and will step up and take their places. 

Friday night we went to a Brazilian Christmas fireside with the Orlando South Stake. It was a wonderful dinner that we enjoyed for the great food, our wonderful friends from several other wards, and entertainment that brought many saudades. They showed a Roberto Carlos music video filmed in Jerusalem at Christmas time. He has been the renowned singer of Brazil ever since the late '60's when I was on my mission in Brazil, and is still going strong. He's a bit older now, but his voice and performance are strong as always. They had hot chicken cochina appetizers, roast pork and pineapple, beef stroganoff with rice, a great veggie salad, and dessert, all served to our tables. 
Table decoration
Veggie Salad
Christmas table settings

Ocoee hospital lobby

On the way to the dinner we went to the Ocoee hospital to visit one of our elders who was admitted there Friday for testing. We visited him again Saturday, and Sunday morning, when he was supposed to get released. He's more than ready ... he was having a gospel discussion with the morning nurse when we got there this morning. The lobby palm trees are wrapped with christmas lights, as are many outdoor palms now.  

Yesterday on Saturday our senior district went to the Fort Christmas celebration in Christmas, Florida, which is in our mission between Orlando and the east coast. We got some christmas cards postmarked there, and saw lots of arts, crafts, food, etc. Will post those pictures with next week's blog because there's no more time tonight. 

We just got an e-mail from Elder Delgado's mother in Brazil, who is planning to be baptized next Saturday! What great news! His cousin will also be baptized the same day. We love Elder Delgado like a son, and we're so happy for him and for this great decision his mother and cousin have made.   
... 'till next week,  
     Elder and Sister Nielson