The time is flying by! We are already one third done with our mission. When we look back, we realize just how much we have accomplished, and yet as we look forward to 2016, we realize just how very much more we need to do!
December began with our usual visits to the less actives and part member families in the Cameron Ward. We also met with the Ft. Bragg Elder's Quorum President and the Ft. Bragg Relief Society President to see just how we can be of assistance to their ward. They both gave us several family names whose spouse is currently deployed. Some may be home for Christmas, others not. We are following up with them to make sure they have what they need thru the holidays and thereafter.
The Ward Mission Leader in Ft. Bragg is deploying to Germany for 4 months two days after Christmas. They just had their 5th child. This is an example of life here at Ft. Bragg. The vast majority of families are unbelievably self-reliant, with very few requiring special attention. Still, a big part of our calling is to minister to the deployed families and that is something we take very seriously. They LOVE having a "grandma and grandpa" come by for a visit and this is usually what we are called! Elder Wadley and I love it just as much, if not more, than they do! It gives us our "special hugs" we miss from our own very sweet GRANDchildren!
We also continue to take a Sacrament Meeting out to Camp Mackall to the members attending survival training for the Special Forces. This always seems to be a highlight of our week. They come in from the field and are so appreciative to have an hour of "back home." Our testimonies have been strengthened by each of them so very much. Brother Wood is so good about making sure we have everything we need out there for the meetings. Chaplain Cottle at Camp Mackall has also been so helpful in facilitating this for us.
We are continuing to visit and help the Kirby's. They are an elderly couple. Sister Kirby has stage 4 cancer and brother Kirby attends to her 24/7. Elder Wadley takes Brother Kirby shopping and to run errands once a week and Sister Wadley sits with Sister Kirby. She reads to her or they watch the BYU channel together. Sometimes Sister Kirby just sleeps. Hospice comes in a couple of times a week and bathes her and makes sure she is comfortable. They are really an amazing couple. Sister Kirby was taught by missionaries in the Philippines and she joined the church there. They were married in the Philippines and later sealed in the Raleigh temple. They are celebrating their 9th anniversary of their sealing on December 15th, so we are going over and taking them a gift and having a nice visit with them. They don't know we realize it is their anniversary, but Sister Wadley saw a plaque on a table in their living room that had the date on it.
We are continuing to fellowship Sister Gay who is a non-member. Her husband is an inactive member and she was interested in learning about "his church" when they were first married. We continually pray that she will accept the missionaries into their home. Brother Gay is an instructor in the Special Forces and has also been a Green Beret. He has been deployed more than he has been home this past year. They have 2 children and are just so very very sweet. We feel that in time the Lord will, again, touch her heart and bring her into the gospel.
We were able to have a senior missionary conference here in Fayetteville for the southern half of the North Carolina Raleigh Mission. This was made up of approximately 20 senior missionary couples. It was such a fun, fun time! President and Sister James came down and presided over the conference. We met at the Fayetteville Stake for morning instruction. Elder Wadley and I talked for 5 minutes each on "The Attributes of the Savior." It was a very informative meeting, with all couples talking about certain parts of their mission and giving all of us some great ideas! We had pizza and salad in the cultural hall afterwards and then everyone carpooled over to the Airborne and Special Forces museum here in Fayetteville for a tour. It is a phenomenal museum which gives the entire history (in very life-like, realistic displays) of the Airborne and Special Forces here at Ft. Bragg. Near the end of the exhibit, I about burst all of my buttons off...there was a wonderful display of Desert Storm. This is the war Elder Wadley flew combat missions in. President and Sister James were so excited to hear all about it and I couldn't have been more proud! It actually happened to be 25 years ago, almost to the day, that Elder Wadley flew his first mission in Deseret Storm. Elder Wadley has been able to have many conversations with military members here about his/and their experiences and it has made for some great missionary efforts as well! There is just something about military life that makes for a wonderful comradery with everyone else. We all sort of think and talk alike around here!
We received an email from our Bishop here in the Cameron Ward, who is the head Chaplain on Ft. Bragg, inviting us to a special dinner for all of the Ft. Bragg LDS Chaplains (5), us and the other senior military relations couple here at Ft. Bragg. Elder Bruce Carlson, who was just made Emeritus at the last General Conference and is now on the Miliary Relations Committee for the church, was coming to Ft. Bragg and wanted to have dinner with all of us. What a thrill for us. This had even more meaning for Elder Wadley, since Elder Carlson was stationed at Mountain Home AFB with us back in the beginning of the 1990's just before Elder Wadley retired from the Air Force. They both flew the same fighter jet. Elder Carlson told Bishop Colby to let all of us know it would be casual. Well, casual for the Chaplains and their wives...skirt and shirt and tie for us missionaries!!! When we arrived at the Mexican Restaurant, in walked Elder Carlson in levi's, cowboy boots and a western shirt! It was such a thrill to meet him and have dinner with him. He and Elder Wadley talked about flying for a good majority of the night. He told Elder Wadley that when Desert Storm broke out, he had a desk job in the Pentagon and was so mad he didn't get to be a part of that war! It was wonderful to meet with all the Chaplain's and their wives. We knew 3 of the 5. They are in the wards we serve in.
One very special experience Elder Carlson told us about that I want to pass on for everyone to enjoy: When Elder Carlson served as an active seventy about 8 months ago, his office was on level 2 of the old Church office Building. He said that when he would get on the elevator to go down to the basement to get in his car and leave for the day, the kind of joke was..."oh I hope the elevator doesn't stop on the 1st floor"...that meant that a member of the First Presidency or someone in their offices would more than likely be getting on. One particular day as he was riding the elevator down, it DID stop at the first floor and who should be standing there when the doors opened but President Monson. Elder Carlson smiled at the prophet and as the prophet walked into the elevator he began whistling THE AIR FORCE SONG!!! This one is "Off We Go Into The Wild Blue Yonder, Flying High Into The Sky." Elder Carlson smiled and told him thank you and President Monson smiled back at him and said, "Hello Elder Carlson, how are you doing?" Wow....what a story! Elder Carlson then said, "did you notice President Monson at conference how he was kind of unsteady on his feet at the podium? He has diabetes and sometimes it puts him off balance." He also said, "for a man that old, I couldn't believe that he would remember a little retired military member and whistle that song to me as he got in the elevator! That just shows how keen his mind is!" He also said to us that night the following: "This is just Elder Carlson talking, but I feel that President Monson is going to live a good long life because of the way some people in the church are doubting their own faith and going away from the church because of the policies that have been in the church FOREVER. I feel that it will be a test of the member's faith to see such an elderly prophet, and see if they will still believe and have the commitment to follow the prophet. It will be a time of putting our faith to the test." Elder Wadley and I felt that was such a profound statement for him to make. He again said, "this is just my personal feeling." It was a wonderful evening!
Elder Wadley and I were able to have several Family Home Evenings with members of both the Cameron and Ft. Bragg Wards. We took President Monson's Christmas pamphlet to each of them and talked about the Savior and all He has done for us. We were so warmly received by everyone. The gospel is strong with the military members here.
We received permission from President James to travel to Charlotte for Christmas to be with our daughter, Kathryn, and her sweet family. What a treat that was! We helped get preparations ready for Christmas Eve. They had 2 other families join us. We had a wonderful dinner, followed by a presentation of the birth of the Savior by all of the children. Our daughter played the flute for the play and our son-in-law played the trumpet. We were each given a typed, colored program to follow along. Oh how it thrilled us to see our 3 beautiful grandchildren portraying the shepherds and the wisemen. Memories never to be forgotten! After the guests left, we gathered everyone up and took Christmas goodies around to all of their friends while looking at all the beautiful lights. Upon returning home, the children found Mrs. Claus had left new jammies for all of them! We sat around the tree, had some hot chocolate and read the Christmas story and it was a magical evening! Next morning there were 3 very excited children! Presents were opened. Daddy said he thought there was one present Santa had left upstairs. He brought down a big red gift wrapped box and out popped a brand new puppy! She is half Schnauzer and half Poodle. She's adorable! We had so much fun playing with her! We stayed through their church on Sunday. Kathryn spoke in Sacrament Meeting about "Spiritual Goals." It was beautiful! She also played the organ. She compared making spiritual goals to the goals she sees her piano students make with their lessons and learning to play the piano. Elder Wadley and I were asked to teach the 9 and 10 year olds in Primary since they didn't have a teacher that morning. We gladly did that and talked about the Savior and showed them several little vignettes from our laptop. It was a lot of fun! Our granddaughter's best friend was in the class, whom we had seen on Christmas Eve for dinner, so that was an extra special treat. We traveled back to Fayetteville Sunday afternoon and brought Kaylee, our 13 year old granddaughter back with us for a visit. Now, how fun is that as a missionary couple! We were afraid she might get a little bored, since we had District Meetings, visits to members, and even a get together on December 30th in our home all the Young Single Adults who didn't go home for the Christmas holiday. She was such a big help for that party, since Elder Wadley and I had been busy all day with meetings and visits. She did get to go visit a couple of families with us, which she really enjoyed. One family was PCSing (permanent change of station) to Ft. Benning, Georgia, so she helped me make dinner for them and we all took it over and had a nice visit. The other family had 2 schnauzers, so she was in heaven!
We drove her back home (again with permission from President James) on the 30th and stayed over night for New Year's Eve. We brought all of the left over food from the party the night before. Speaking of our party - we had about 18 people there - in our little 3 bedroom base house! They had a great time. We told them all to bring any games they had, but they ended up eating and VISITING, which they said seemed SO GOOD, compared to staying in the barracks. We were so happy the Branch President of the Young Single Adult Branch ok'd this get together and actually told us thank you for having it. We feel like this is the least we can do, living on post. It was a fun night!
Anyway, back to New Year's Eve. We ate, played games, ate, played games, banged pans at midnight and stayed up until 1:30 a.m. playing games. The 2 youngest grandchildren (4 and 7) stayed up until 1:00 a.m.! We woke up the next morning and took everyone to breakfast and then we drove back to Fayetteville. We ended up being gone about 25 hours!
I thought you might like to hear a pretty typical week for us (that is when there aren't many other distractions that ALWAYS seem to come up: sewing ripped pants for the elders, picking the sister missionaries up and going to an investigator's house with them and helping them teach a lesson, etc., which make for added blessings!) So anyway, on a typical day we get up around 7. We read scriptures, have our morning prayers and then head out on our 2 mile walk. The weather has been very nice. We don't yet know what we are in store for in May, June, July and August! We may decide to walk the gym at the housing complex with air conditioning instead! We come back, fix breakfast, shower and get ready for the day (which we plan out the previous evening.) One day will consist of us driving up to members in the Cameron Ward (about 30 minutes away) and visiting with families who have a mom or dad deployed. We usually call them the night before to see what time works best for them. A lot of times, we have a lot to see just after 5 p.m. because the spouse is working. They are usually so good to invite us for dinner, but we tell them, we have a lot to see and just take a rain check. If there is a special need for us to stay and get more involved with the family, then we for sure take them up on the invitation! Again, such self-reliant people! They just love having us come into the home and spend time with the children and make life a little better without mom or dad home.
Cameron Ward has members living on base housing, which is off base - about 10 miles away, but you have to show a military ID when you go on. The ward is made up of about 65 percent of the members here. The other 35 percent live in what Elder Wadley and I refer to as "the forest." If you ask the full-time elders serving here they would call it the same thing! It literally is like a forest you drive through to get to their houses. Some live in trailers with just the forest surrounding them. On one of our trips into the forest, we saw a run down trailer house with a complete man in armor standing on the porch. We always will refer to this trailer as "The Armor of God Trailer" as we drive by and that gave us the idea to begin presenting The Armor of God Family Home Evenings to members and their families. We made a shield, a sword, covered some shoes in aluminum foil and we have the children use all of these while we talk to them about "putting on the whole armor of God" as found in 1st Corinthians. We help them think of ways they can put on the whole armor of God. They are so excited when they realize that THEY have thought of the things they can do! They really like it! When we travel to the Cameron members, we have to put an address in both of our cell phones GPS and visit these 2 families and then drive back to a central location in the forest that has a grocery store and a McDonald's to put in 2 more addresses and then we go and visit them, and the day continues on until about 7:30 at night. The children usually go to bed around this time because the military members have to be in so early. We are usually driving back to the post by around 8. We have a bite to eat while we are calling to make appointments for the next day (if we haven't been able to get in touch with them during the day, which we try to do.)
When we visit the members of the Ft. Bragg Ward, they live right on the post so we don't have as far to go. We catch them during the day and in the evenings. A lot of times we will see them when we are shopping at the commissary or the PX. On Monday evenings, we travel to the Stake Center to have Family Home Evening with the Young Single Adults. On Thursday evenings we travel back there to attend Institute. Thursday afternoons we volunteer at Womack, the huge military hospital here on Ft. Bragg. We volunteer for the Red Cross. We take carts around to the patients with movies, books, snacks, etc. on them. We stop and visit with them for a minute. They usually really appreciate the visit. The Red Cross has also asked us to give briefings to the men and women who will be deploying and help them get the paperwork completed as to next of kin, etc. This is usually a difficult time for them, because they have a lot on their mind - family, war, military, finances, etc. We try to make it as comfortable for them as we can. It has given us a good feeling being able to contribute to the post with volunteer work. It took quite a while to get everything done we needed to in order to volunteer. It's not a quick task. We had to have a background check, a hippa investigation, retired military verification, shots, etc. It was quite involved.
We were able to go bowling on post with our District in December. We had 3 sets of Elders and 1 Set of Sisters. We gave each person a $10 Taco Bell gift card for Christmas along with the M&M Christmas Story and a picture of us that we had taken for our Christmas Cards. They loved everything. The Hills, the senior missionary couple who left in November, had made key chains that have North Carolina Raleigh Mission on them, so we gave each of them one of these as well. I made candy kiss cookies for them and the Sister's had bought donuts. We had a great time!
Elder Wadley and I are teaching 3 families the Temple Prep classes. They are about half way thru them, hoping to go to the temple in the near future. It is so much fun to see their progress! One of the families just had their first child - a little baby girl who is now a month old. The other family has 3 girls: 9, 7 and 4. He is trying very hard to quit smoking. She is so concerned about all of their tattoos they both have (which is a VERY common thing here in the military with both members and non-members.) We have encouraged him with bringing him some strong cinnamon candies he really likes to put in his mouth when he feels the temptation. We have tried something with him that has seemed to have a good impact on him: we tell him that when he has the urge to pick up one of those white cigarettes, to instead think of his 3 girls all dressed in white in the temple and being sealed to him and his wife for eternity! We have explained to both of them that it doesn't matter about their tattoos. What matters is having their family sealed together for eternity! We think they have definitely caught the vision. She is now the Relief Society Secretary and does such a good job!
The Ft. Bragg Relief Society President and her husband have a son who just finished a semester at BYU Idaho and has returned home to await his mission call. We have just finished giving him the Temple Prep lessons and he is so excited for his call! The bishop announced that he will be the very first missionary to go out from the Ft. Bragg ward. The majority of the members in the ward have Primary age children. There are probably 8 Young Women and maybe 10 Young Men. So to have a family in the ward with a son old enough to go on a mission is rare. They also have a daughter who will be attending BYU Idaho in January. Great family! Their father is a helicopter battalion commander.
We have grown to LOVE all of the members of the wards we serve in. There is something about being in the Lord's service and having a heart that just bursts with love for those whom you are serving. It is a good reminder for Elder Wadley and myself of the love our Father in Heaven has for us. In church today, one of the full-time missionaries was teaching us about how much love our Father in Heaven has for us and he stated, "now I haven't been a father yet, but I look at all of you in this class who are parents, and ask you to think about your own children and just how much love you have for them. Of course, this is something that is just indescribable. Needless to say, this is how we feel about the members here. We love them DEARLY.
As we end our blog for 2015, Elder Wadley and I want to wish everyone of you who might read this a very HAPPY AND PROSPEROUS NEW YEAR. May your mind and your heart be FILLED with the love of our Savior and may you find peace in your life by serving and learning to love those with whom you serve.
Sister Wadley does a SUPER job with the BLOG, our record keeping, and keeping me in line. I love her so much, and want everyone to know what an amazing gift she has for remembering people's names and stories, and listening and loving them in such a personal and kind way. She has a wonderful way of letting people know how much we love them, and how much more the Savior and Heavenly Father loves them too. We've had some very rewarding and humbling experiences with people we've grown to love and who have become our close friends. Living on Fort Bragg has certainly helped us appreciate how much so very many give to protect our freedoms.
25 years ago I was deployed to Saudi Arabia as part of Operation Desert Storm - the first Gulf War, and it was certainly my warmest winter ever. Sister Wadley and the kids were in Mountain Home during one of the coldest Idaho winters on record. They did 3 early morning paper routes and on one of those way below zero mornings when Sister Wadley was getting all 4 kids up for the routes, she went out into the garage to start the van only to find that the sliding door was frozen shut. She ran in the house and grabbed her hair blower and came back out, plugged it in and proceeded to blow hot air up and down the seam of the door! The papers needed to be delivered! I think this winter in North Carolina will now become the very warmest winter for both of us. It really rains a lot here. It seems like in one weekend we get as much rain here as Utah and southern Idaho get for the whole year! Everything is certainly pretty and green. Roses in bloom for Christmas and New Years! We love all of you and will be so excited to see you once again when our mission is complete - which, we are glad, won't be until next September!
Elder & Sister Wadley
North Carolina Raleigh Mission
Ft. Bragg, N.C.