Saturday, March 28, 2009

Drew's baptism

Today, Saturday, March 28, my youngest grandson will be baptized. Of my 17 grandchildren, this is the first baptism I have missed. Of course I knew I wouldn't be there back in November.

What I didn't know is that on this very day the youngest son of a family in my ward is being baptized and I will be attending that. There are so few children in my branch that this is a special gift from a loving Father in Heaven.

A couple of hours later we will attend the baptism of two young Russian-speaking Latvian men. Each of them has been well-prepared and has studied a great deal. One (age 35) has been investigating the Church for a year and has read more than many members have. The other is a man in his early 20s. It's wonderful to see good young men accepting the Gospel of Jesus Christ and, following His example, entering into the waters of baptism.

Another cooking experience

As I may have mentioned before, I have become a much more creative cook since coming here. In part because I don't have my cookbooks here and in part because of the difference in what's available here.

This week we had some milk that was past date but it smelled okay. There was too much to toss if it was still good, but I didn't want to taste it, nor did Sister Humphrey. So, I decided to make pudding. We also had eggs that needed to be used and some coconut that we weren't sure of.

I couldn't find a recipe for pudding (or pie filling) that sounded like mine, so I decided to wing it. I mixed the ingredients and cooked it (cooking on gas goes much more quickly than on electric burners). It did bubble so I mixed in the egg yolks and melted butter (and then remembered I always put the butter in with the vanilla at the end). Anyway, it thickened up, like cream puffs do when you are cooking them--separating from the sides of the pan. I went ahead and added the "vanilla" and coconut and plopped it into a bowl.

Then, it all came back to me--the right way to make it. The recipe I had called for 3/8 C flour. I always used about 2 T of cornstarch (I think). The "vanilla" was almond flavoring and a little of that goes a long way. The coconut seems okay but is overpowered by the almond flavoring.

Their liquid flavorings come in small tubes, not bottles like we're used to. But, then the baking powder (we finally found some) comes in packets like dry soup mix, only smaller, as does cinnamon.

Anyway, Sister Humphrey liked the pudding and it didn't taste too bad. The texture was definitely not creamy. By the way--the milk was good, or at least didn't make the pudding taste bad!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Another amazing zone conference

Zone Conferences for me are truly spiritual feasts. President Dance, at the beginning, taught us that whatever we were taught that day, we should listen for the promptings of the Spirit and then act upon and do what we were taught. That it was not just to hear and enjoy, but that the Spirit would teach us, individually, what was needed.

Any, boy did I have needs. At the end we each had 60 seconds in which to bear our testimonies and my cup was running over with feelings and thoughts.

The evening before, Sister Dance had called and invited Sister Humphrey and me to dinner at the mission home, following the zone conference. She had earlier asked me to make cookies for the missionaries who have March birthdays. I had offered to make cinnamon rolls instead and so I was in the process of making the rolls when she called. I made dinner rolls, too, for the dinner.

She had put dinner in the crockpot (she had it shipped from the US - privilege of mission presidents to have some home comforts) and it was a simple meal but so enjoyable to have time alone with the two of them. A real treat!

Mission presidents make great sacrifices to serve for 3 years. President and Sister Dance's only son returned from his mission just before they arrived here and is being married next month in the Bountiful Temple. Sister Dance is allowed to make the trip home for the wedding, but President Dance is not allowed to leave the mission (except for mission president conferences once or twice a year). They have two unmarried daughters who could certainly be married before their time here is up. Their children visited them here over the Christmas holiday and the son brought his fiancee', whom they knew from before their son's mission.

I have such admiration for President and Sister Dance, and for all the mission presidents and their families.

I'm a Senior companion!!

Well, it's really no big deal inasmuch as it was automatic when Sister Harper left and Sister Humphrey arrived. But, it is more responsibility--the rent money is put on my msf card and I am no longer able to depend on Sister Harper to tell me which form of transportation we take and what number we take.

Last Saturday, Sister Humphrey needed to buy some boots and so we ventured into downtown Riga. We got on the 21 Autobus and rode to Stockman's and then walked around the corner to the Tirgus (open market). The bus was so crowded that we were held upright by the crowd. I couldn't reach a pole or anything to hang on to. Now I know what cattle feel like being taken to the stockyard.

Stockman's is a very large department store, with a large grocery section which carries more American foods than the usual grocery stores. Stockman's is apparently the only place you can buy peanut butter, but they didn't have Skippy super chunky and that's the kind I like. But they did have canned Campbell's soups (soups here come in packets like Knorr's and Lipton).

This was my first time at the Tirgus and it was an experience. Sister Humphrey found a pair of boots and when she offered the money (in Lats), the clerk had to run around to other "shops" to find change. The shops in the Tirgus are just little, perhaps comparable to kiosks in US.

We then ventured out to other parts of the Tirgus. Some is open markets like I've seen in the movies, with fresh produce. Most of it looked lovely, but there were pigeons above and beneath, and we live a long way from there, so buying fresh produce and getting it home on the bus didn't seem the best way to go, especially if we would have been on another crowded bus.

We did each find a purse/bag. Sister Harper had a wonderful one that had many pockets that all zipped (good for preventing pickpockets from their "craft.") I bought mine and had the exact change, which was good, because when Sister Humphrey decided to buy one also, she didn't have the exact change and the proprietor didn't have any change (at least that she was willing to admit to). Fortunately, I had what Sister Humphrey needed to make it exact. It's interesting how well we can communicate without speaking the language.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Our loving Father in Heaven - revised

I had a very wonderful experience that I want to share with you all. Read the following series of events.

In August I received a call to serve in the Baltic Mission. On November 26, I arrived in Riga.

In December, Scott and Julie (oldest son and daughter-in-law sent me two tour books for the Baltic countries.

In January, Nathan (my grandson, age 17) emailed to tell me he had an interest in art nouveau architecture and had learned that Riga has a museum on that, and would I take some pictures.
I told him I would when the weather warmed up a bit. I had learned from the tour books that Riga has an entire district called the Art Nouveau District.

February 10, I traveled to Tallinn, Estonia for visa work. Sister Harper and I and one young Elder, Elder Alex Hansen, were the only ones making the trip that day. On the way home on the bus, the 3 of us were visiting about many things and I felt prompted to tell him about Nate's request. I didn't do so, thinking it wasn't pertinent to anything we were discussing. The prompting came a 2nd time, and this time I acted upon it.

Elder Hansen then related an experience he and his companion had had a few days earlier. They had knocked on the door of a woman and had a pleasant visit with her. She told them she had something she wanted to give them and brought out a DVD of art nouveau architecture in Riga. She had been involved in producing the DVD.

Neither Elder Hansen nor his companion had an interest in it and didn't know what they would do with it, but accepted it. Elder Hansen told me I could have it to send to Nate.

The more I have thought about this series of "coincidences" and the more I share it with others, the more amazed I am. What are the odds that each of those things came together, to answer the request of one young man in West Jordan, Utah.

I know that our Father in Heaven loves each of us and is aware of us, and desires to bless us. I know that this entire experience came about as an expression of our Father's love for Nate. And I am thankful I could be an instrument in His Hands.