Saturday, December 9, 2017

Sunday, 10 Dec 2017

Monday, 4 Dec - My goodness the time flies when you are busy.  Where does it go? It is as if I just posted last week's blog and it is time for another one.  Good grief Old Man Time - Please SLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWW down.
Today Margaret did her weekly declutter at the Sister's house.  Mike made more silver and gold coins for the Branch Christmas party - he always wanted to be a counterfeiter (ha).  Then both went to Spotlight and looked for new curtains for the branch meeting house.

Tuesday, 5 Dec - Mike talked with his mum a day early since we will be driving to Sydney tomorrow.  Then he talked with Sprint about a new phone for Margaret to replace the one that was stolen.  We decided to get get a phone from Sprint since it would be locked for 50 days and we cannot wait that long before using it on the Telstra network.  It has been too long already.  We helped with the Tuesday afternoon primary activity - it was Faith in God today and the kids made Christmas cookies and gave them to several families, including their own.  We then went to Christ Church Cathedral (Anglican) for the investiture of the new rector in Grafton, but he was sick so the service was cancelled.  That gave us time to talk with the the Anglican reverends and find out a bit more about the Grafton Ministers Association.

Wednesday, 6 Dec - We drove to Sydney - Oh Joy.  It is a long 8 hours, including rest & petrol stops. We made it and stayed with Rhonda Crosbie.

Thursday, 7 Dec - It is Pearl Harbor Day.  Remember those who gave their lives this day in that attack. The Australia Sydney North Mission held it's Christmas training session today.  We had training in the morning and then lunch.  After lunch we took care of a number of administrative things and held some activities with the full set of young missionaries in the mission.

Friday, 8 Dec - We attended the Sydney temple in the morning with Rhonda.   Then back to her place for lunch and then on the road to Port Macquarie.  The Port Macquarie branch was holding a live nativity and the Swain's invited us to stay with them and see the nativity.  We got there in time to listen to a local choral group singing Christmas carols and then were able to see the nativity.  Both were really quite good and we had an enjoyable time.

Saturday, 9 Dec - We made a tour of Port Macquarie with the Swains.  We went to Shelley beach and to the Lighthouse beach, among other places.  At lighthouse beach they have camel rides.  We went back to the Swain's, had lunch and then headed north to Grafton.  We stopped along the way at Barry Wards and Joyce Wallbank homes.  Then home and crashed.  It was good to sleep in our own bed.

Sunday, 10 Dec - President Sadler (District Presidency counselor) and his wife spoke in Sacrament meeting today.  He held a luncheon after.  Then home to get a few things done before a branch Presidency meeting at 630 pm.

Handbag - material provided by Rhonda Crosbie.  Design and sewing by Margaret Haley

Inside pocket of the handbag

Australia Sydney North Mission young missionary Christmas luncheon

Some of our Chinese & Taiwan missionaries - Sister Lu, Sister Wang, Elder Tsen

Elder Gibbs & Sister Wang in a race to stack cups and then unstack them
And the winner - Sister Wang

Taiwan Elders & Sisters

Another photo of the ASNM missionaries

Elder Haley, Sister Wong, Sister Haley

How to eat an Oreo if placed on your forehead

ASNM missionaries

The Angel Gabriel talking with Mary

Mary, Joseph & the Christ child in the manger

The shepherds coming to see the Christ Child

The sheep and the choir of Angels

One of the wise men laying down his gift to the Christ Child

The shepherds & wise men paying honor to the Christ Child 

Past the center rocks - a pod of porpoise at Shelly Beach, Port Macquarie

Panorama of Shelly Beach

A shell Christmas tree
Elder & Sister Haley. The sun was bright and the thumb was big

Goanna at Shelly Beach - about 2 1/2 to 3 ft long

Bush turkey

Bush Turkey

Rocks & surf at Port Macquarie Light house

Sister Haley, Elder Swain, Sister Swain at the PM Light house

Light house beach and the camels in the far distance

More rocks & surf at the light house

Koala sleeping (what they do best) at the PM Koala hospital

Another Koala sleeping

In the branches above.  I wonder how they keep their balance when they are asleep

Sister & Elder Haley with Koala statue

Koala hospital at Port Macquarie

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Sunday, 26 Nov 2017

Monday, 20 Nov - Because the local bank does not check its night deposit box and then Church HQ wants to know why the tithing money we report does not show up in the bank, we have gotten permission to make the deposit on Monday morning. The Branch clerk and I make the drive into town and deposit the funds.  It is a bit of a pain, but as the Clerk says we would be making the drive anyway to check with the bank on why they had not deposited the money. Checked with the Coffs Harbour elders on the repair status of their flat - Elder Haley is going to have to spend more time on the phone talking with rental agents to get the repair work done.

Tuesday, 21 Nov - There seems to always be something back in the USA that needs our attention, but we try to keep it to a minimum.  Thank goodness for the internet which gives us email and VoIP calling.  This is sure better than 60 years ago when we had to send letters back and forth, or on occasion fly to Hong Kong to make a phone call.  Primary Activity this afternoon. With Sister Best gone for a few weeks, we are doing a lot of game activities.

Wednesday, 22 Nov - Getting ready for the BIG Day (Thanksgiving) which is NOT celebrated here in Australia.  Halloween yes, but not Thanksgiving.  The Aussies have plenty to be thankful about, so they should institute this day.  Margaret and I spent most of the day in the kitchen preparing food - turkey, dressing, pumpkin pie, blueberry pie.  Oh boy, my mouth is watering again.  Then off to read the Book of Mormon with Joseph & Declan.  These boys are really good kids.

Thursday, 23 Nov - THANKSGIVING.   We are so thankful to be here in Grafton, NSW and serving a mission for the Saviour, Jesus Christ.  We did have to do some taxi driving this morning, but most of the time was finishing the feast and having the Thanksgiving Dinner at 4 pm.  We had the Coffs elders as well as the Grafton elders, plus Scott.   It was a grand time.   Then we held DTM after dinner and then went to the Branch meetinghouse for YW/YM.  The YW/YM are helping make costume accessories for the Branch Christmas dinner - a progressive dinner starting in Bethlehem, then to Zarahemla and ending up in Grafton, NSW.   This should be a fun night.

Friday, 24 Nov -  Cleaned the meetinghouse in the morning.  Then helped Margaret prepare things for the RS movie night to be held at our house tonight.  Main part of the meal are the Hot Colby Ham/cheese croissants - recipe compliments of Pat McIntyre.  They are SOOOOOOOOOOO   Good. The movie is "A Song for Marion" and is a good chick flick, even if I say so myself.   The dinner went well and the sisters enjoyed both the dinner and the movie.

Saturday, 25 Nov - Margaret met with Sister Stiller to work on the Branch Christmas dinner.  I worked around the house and in the yard.  We listened to the missionary transfer call at 9:30 pm that is held every 6 weeks.  There are a lot of missionary names that we do not know as the turnover is pretty extensive - most of the elders/sisters we knew from the City/Sydney are going home and we do not get to meet the new ones since we are up here in Grafton (a million kilometers from Sydney).

Sunday, 26 Nov - a somewhat embarrassing day, but also comical now that I can look back on it.  The President and 1st counselor were out of town.  I was the only member of the Presidency to be at Sacrament meeting.  I was told that President Denley from the District would be here for Sacrament.  I had met him once, but did not remember what he looked like (ah yes, you can see this coming). A man & his wife showed up and they were familiar so I greeted them and welcomed them to the Branch.  I asked the man to sit on the stand with me and began the meeting.  When Sacrament was passed, he deferred the first taking to me which I thought was a bit odd since the District Presidency presides at the meeting. We had our normal speakers and then I asked that President Denley share some comments with us, so the man did that.  After his talk he leaned over to me and asked who was President Denley????   This man was the father of Tabitha Best whose husband is the 1st counselor, and was not President Denley.  The bad part was that not any of the other members of the Branch knew that either, or at least they did not speak up about it.  We all had a good laugh and my error.  During Sunday School, the real President Denley showed up and I did not tell him about the "imposter".  Other than that faux pas, the day went along pretty well.

Monday, 27 Nov - It is decluttering day for Sister Haley at one of the Sister's homes today - her weekly Monday activity.  Elder Haley runs errands and tidies up the yard (so the neighbors will not kick us out).

Tuesday, 28 Nov -  A normal Tuesday, including the Primary youth activity.  The neighborhood kids seem to really look forward to this time (and the cookies & freeze pops). Hanks Kitchen opened their new store in Junction Hill today - they make meat pies, jam filled donuts, sausage rolls, jam filled donuts, bread, jam filled donuts, pastries and (oh did I mention Jam filled donuts??)

Wednesday, 29 Nov - Margaret talked with one of our children this morning and Mike talked with his mum.  It is so wonderful to have the technology that we do - it helps us keep up with our family and not feel like we are a million miles away.  One less reason for senior couples to not serve a mission as you are as close as your PC or smartphone.  We did our normal Book of Mormon reading with Joseph & Declan - this is always a great experience for us.

Thursday, 30 Nov - We went to the meetinghouse to check on some things and found the Area Facilities manager there looking over the place.  He was not too happy with what he saw.  We worked on measuring some of the windows for curtains.  Then we went to look at a flat for one of the sisters.  While looking at the flat (just 75-100 feet from our "unlocked" car) Margaret's purse was stolen from our car - even though it was in our sight most (but not all) of the time.  Margaret had asked me to lock the car when we got out, but I did not hear her, and I did not think to lock the car because we were right there.  Boy, Mike sure feels dumb.  We soon got a call from Commonwealth Bank asking if we had made some purchases in the last 45 minutes, and we had NOT, so they closed down the card.  We spent the rest of the day reporting on the lost credit cards, mobile phone and purse.  We have learned a lot about mobile phones, their security and how to have them backed up in the cloud - some things we had done, but not as much as we would like.  We did run a Google locator on the phone and found where it was last "seen" by Google, but that was at 9 pm, so we decided to go to the location in the morning.

Friday, 1 Dec - The phone was last "seen" at the Grafton Aged Care facility near the Grafton bridge.  We got there at 8 or 8:30 and talked with the manager - a very nice lady.   We decided to check the rubbish bin  and found some loose pieces of paper from Margaret's purse, but not the purse.  The bin had been picked up by the rubbish people at 6 am and we found out that it had already been compacted and buried, so there was no way we would ever find the purse.  We should have gone down there the night before, but lesson learned.  We did do some tracing of the credit card purchases and got some details on time and that the stores all had videos of the man using our card.  They could not give that to (or show us), but told us to have the police come down and get what they needed.  We reported this to the police.  Later in the day, the police asked us to bring in a printout from the bank with the stolen charges and we told them we would bring them to them in the morning.

Saturday, 2 Dec - We delivered the Bank print out of the fraudulent charges to the police.  When we arrived they told us that they had the man in the back - hurrah for swift police work.   We then went on to Spotlight to buy the curtains for the meeting house, while they were on sale.  We have looked into getting a new mobile phone for Margaret and hope to have that resolved in the next few weeks. In the afternoon, Scott came over to mow the grass and Mike worked on cutting/trimming a large bush in the backyard that is choking some desired trees.  We had Elder Corpany & Lankford over for dinner and reviewed the #LightTheWorld  online advent calendar sponsored by the LDS Church.

Sunday, 3 Dec - Fast & Testimony Sunday - the testimonies were good.  Sunday school was about Zion and how to establish Zion in our lives, our families and community.  Third hour the men went over the #LightTheWorld events for the coming week and discussed how we could do what was suggested for each day of service.  After Church Margaret & I visited with the Howards - 2 doors down the street.  Then on the way back we stopped and talked with Peter & Lois who live next door.  Then we crossed the highway to get a better view of the sunset.  Now it is time to wrap up the blog and start a new chapter.

"gold" coins for the Christmas party - to be used in Bethlehem and Zarahemla

"silver" coins for the Christmas party

Beehives in the back yard of a house not too far from the branch meeting house.

Hanks Kitchen just opened in Junction Hill. Lovely store to visit, but not too often

The numbers are few today, but we are playing Cricket

Frangipania tree down the street at the Howards

Frangipania flowers.  A nice, sweet fragrance

Sunset from Junction Hill

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Sunday, 19 Nov 2017

Monday, 6 Nov - Mike picked up Spencer Norman and took him to Kindy School since his mum was not feeling well.  We made some visits to the hospital this morning.  There were 2 members and the mother of member there.  We could have spent all day at the hospital, but we were headed out of town to show some of the country to Rhonda Crosbie.  We drove the old Glen Innes road which was about half blacktop and half gravel.  We stopped along the river to have lunch. We then went on and  stopped at the old tunnel (65 km from town) and turned around.  When we got back to town we had to pick up a dinner to be delivered to the son of one of the sisters in hospital.  Then we picked up Spencer from Kindy and took him for dinner at I Scream (ham & cheese sandwich, hamburgers & ice cream) and then put some petrol in his mum's car where she had left it near our house because she ran out of petrol.  Mike then drove it to a petrol station and put some petrol in it.  We got hit by a big lightning, thunder & rain storm - nice to have the rain.

Tuesday, 7 Nov - This is the last day of Rhonda Crosbie's stay with us.  It has been a good visit and we are glad that she came up for awhile.

Wednesday, 8 Nov - normal day with normal activities, including playing taxi driver.  I thought taxi driving ended when our kids left home.

Thursday, 9 Nov - Visited with one of the investigators and then normal activities.  Branch Presidency meeting and YW/YM in the evening.

Friday, 10 Nov - Helped clean the meeting house in the morning - an every Friday task. Drove out past Half-way Creek (45 min drive) to visit with Barry Ward - we like spending time with him.  Then back to Grafton to deliver a meal to one of the members.  Then Margaret met with Sister Stiller to work on the Christmas Activity - a progressive dinner starting in Bethlehem, then Zarahemla and ending in Grafton NSW.

Saturday, 11 Nov -  visited several members of the branch who needed a visit.  Then worked on preparing food for the Branch luncheon Sunday after meetings. Veterans Day in the USA.

Sunday, 12 Nov - Pres Alfred and his wife visited the branch today and spoke in Sacrament meeting. We had a potluck lunch afterwards - HEAPS of food.

Monday, 13 Nov - We finished submitting our Australian Federal Police background check application today.  We are working on extending our mission by 6 months.  Made a visit to hospital to check on members there.

Tuesday, 14 Nov - Called the Anglican Christ Church Cathedral to make an appointment with Bishop Macneil, but ended up talking with Reverend Ian Chaplin, Senior Priest, at Christ Church.  More on this tomorrow.  Went to the Primary activity and then went to the printers to pick up the Christmas activity flyer.  At 630pm the branch council met to work on distributing the flyers to members and community personnel.

Wednesday, 15 Nov -  A very special day in the life of Elder & Sister Haley.  This is going to be a long winded email (something I do not do very often), so have a seat and a hot chocolate while you read this.  I hope that I am not bragging, but showing what can happen when we follow the promptings of the Spirit and are not afraid to be a witness of Jesus Christ and take a step forward in faith.  This was not an easy task for us and a few times we almost backed out, but we knew it was the right thing and that we were being led by the Spirit to do what was right. (I am not good or comfortable hobnobbing with officials in organisations.)  Also, this shows how we can do what our local leaders are inspired to ask us to do, as President Norman wants to become more active in the community so that we can be known for our good works and community service.  In his words, he wants to bring the Church out of obscurity in Grafton – in a good way as we have some old impressions and biases to overcome.

During the Jacaranda festival, Christ Church (Anglican) Cathedral hosted an ecumenical church service.  President Norman was made aware of it by one of our members, but he was not able to attend.  I originally said – ok, not my bailiwick and decided not to go; however, the Spirit prompted me to take Sister Haley to the service and meet the member who brought this to our attention. We went and many of the ministers in town participated in the service (we did not as we were not involved with the planning of it), and we noticed that there was a Grafton Ministers Association (GMA).  I talked with Pres Norman and he asked me to find out about the GMA and how we could participate.

So I thought I would approach Bishop Macneil, Anglican Bishop of the Grafton Diocese, since she was the one conducting the ecumenical service.   I was also prompted to give her a Book of Mormon to fulfil my Book of Mormon challenge that is going on in the Branch at the moment. Well, I could not make an appointment with the Bishop, so I tried Reverend Ian Chaplin, Senior Associate Priest at Christ Church Cathedral.  He answered the phone and I asked if we (Sister Haley & I) could meet with him the next day as we had a few questions we needed help with.  He agreed and invited us to his 10 am service on Wednesday, 15 Nov.  Originally we were not going to go to the service, but were prompted by the Spirit to attend in order to show some interest and sincerity towards Reverend Chaplin. Sister Haley & I attended the service and then met with Reverend Chaplin after the service. We talked for a few minutes at the Cathedral and then he invited us to come over to his home and chat.  His home was the Bishop’s house – he is the husband of Bishop Macneil.  We had a pleasant visit for about 15-20 minutes thanks to Sister Haley who is a wonderful conversationalist.  Without her I would have been at a loss to keep a good conversation going that helped build a good relationship with Reverend Chaplin.  We then asked about how we could join or be invited to join the GMA and talked about that for a few minutes. The Reverend was quite favorable toward the idea of the LDS Church being part of the community minister’s group. During this conversation we presented him with a Book of Mormon and asked him to read the Introduction when he had a few minutes as it pointed out that we know that Jesus Christ is the Saviour of the world.  We also gave him a copy of the Articles of Faith and an invitation to the Branch Christmas activity which is a progressive dinner starting in Bethlehem, then Zarahemla and ending in Grafton. Reverend Chaplin knows of the Church, seems to have a positive view towards it and likes the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The visit was very friendly and cordial.

Reverend Chaplin took us to the Cathedral office and introduced us to Reverend Camellia Flanagan and Roger Moore, office manager, and got the necessary information about the GMA from them.  Reverend Flanagan is the one who attends the GMA meetings and she invited us to attend the 19 December luncheon. President Norman hopes to be able to attend this luncheon, work permitting. We are now going to visit a few of the clergy in town prior to the luncheon so that we are not crashing the party or shocking them when we arrive for the luncheon.  The GMA is active in a few community activities that support/further religious education and awareness.

We hope and pray that we will be able open more doors and create new friendships with the other religious leaders in Grafton. We are off to a good start thanks to the leadership of President Norman. This experience definitely shows that the Lord can use the weak (me, not Sister Haley or President Norman) to bring about His purposes.

Thursday, 16 Nov - Taxi driving time again.  We went out to Maclean (45 minutes to the north) to visit some of the sisters who live/work there.  We also took sacrament to Sister Hibberd who is in a nursing home in Maclean.  On the way, we stopped in Ulmarra at a used book store and picked up 5 Arthur Upfield books (fiction) for Mom Haley on a part aboriginal detective named Bony (short for Bonaparte).  Mom has several of the series and we added to her collection.  Then back for YW/YM in the evening.

Friday, 17 Nov - Meeting house cleaning.   Then visit hospital only to find that the sister there has been transferred to a nursing home.  Grocery shopping for the branch picnic & bike ride tomorrow.  Mrs Judy Howard, a neighbor, came by this afternoon and we visited with her for a while regarding her son who is a member.  Sister Kerry Arthur stopped by for a visit and she hopefully will get a flat in the near future in Grafton. I am working on the blog and Margaret is working on emails to some of the kids.

Saturday, 18 Nov - Grafton Branch Picnic and bike ride time.  A few people suggested that since it was cloudy and a forecast of rain that we cancel the branch picnic, but Mike recommended that we go forward since we constantly get rain forecasts in Grafton and nothing of consequence rarely happens. We did have a very light sprinkle, but the day was good and a success - 26 people attended which is good for Grafton.  5 youth did the bike ride.  Elder Haley & President Norman did the sausage bbq and we had lots of fruit & salad.  The kids played soccer and the adults sat around and gas bagged - fun for all.  Later in the afternoon Margaret & Mike visited with Judy & Martin Howard, our neighbors and parents of Scott, for a bit.  Then off to the Norman's to help decorate the Christmas tree and have dinner.

Sunday, 19 Nov - President Leneham, counselor in the mission presidency, was the visitor today in Sacrament. He talked about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and shared several accounts about the lives of the Three witnesses of the Book of Mormon. They all had ample opportunities to deny what they saw and touched, but none of them ever did - in fact they bore testimony of what they did see/hold was true even when they were remote to the Church.

The Old Glen Innes Road

The country

Loading cows into the truck from the corral and up the chute

Opps, ran out of blacktop

The river

More of the river

The water was a nice temperature, but we did not go in

Down at the river after our picnic lunch

rapids on the down river side of the road

more of the old Glen Innes Road

This is one way to mow the grass along the road

Plenty of cattle along the road side

There are even Jacarandas out here

Guy Fawkes River sign

Dalmorton - you would think it was a town, but  I think there was just one old deserted farm building

The road on the way to the old tunnel

Aah, we finally made it to the tunnel

With water at one end about 6 inches deep

There was no passing in the tunnel

Rhonda Crosbie & Margaret at the tunnel

We were being watched

ok folks time to moooove along and stop bothering me

On the road back to town.

From one of the local shops in the area

Grafton art gallery showing Aboriginal art

More Aboriginal art

The needles are echidna quills

clay pottery.  This is modern stuff as the real aboriginals did not do pottery work, but used wood.  Gorgeous work

Elder Haley in a chair at the art gallery

Tuesday Primary activity

It seems that every cow (or steer) has its own white bird.  Sometimes more than 1 bird per cow

Arielle & Willow with their personal progress books

More cattle and birds

Anglican Christ Cathedral, Grafton

Some interesting names for creeks around here

ssshhhh, I think we are being watched

post boxes are kind of unique here in the country

Beautiful green pastures with cattle

One of the last Jacaranda trees in full bloom

Our destination on this country drive

1 of just a few buildings in Nymboida

Nymboida local church building.  I think it is deserted now

A museum of interesting things. Looks like not many people are interested

Now we can see the "things" in the name

Nymboida local public school

We have heard of Couts Crossing and now we can say that we have been there

I wonder of the creek is flowing over with kangaroos?

Well, not flowing but not totally dry of kangaroos

Part of the Clarence valley where we live

A herd near our home.  The bull is about 6-12 inches taller than the cows.

House in Lawrence built on a single pedestal. And it is circular to boot

Most houses are built on stilts, poles or brick pillars, but this one is much taller than most

soccer after picnic lunch

finishing dessert and cleaning up - Sister Jones, Haley, Rapmund, Stiller

Clean bbq grill.  Sister Beth Norman & Amanda Jones

Storm cloud arising

Sister Haley (blurred) and Spencer (dracula) Norman

The finished product - Christmas Tree

What Christmas is all about - the birth of our Saviour, Jesus Christ

Growing at the edge of our driveway - beautiful Allamanda flowering vine