Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Story Before the Adventure

We knew we wanted to serve as "senior couple" missionaries when Glenn retired and I took a leave of absence from teaching Zumba exercise classes.  When the time came to put in our papers, we requested "state-side 12 months".  We felt healthy, but I was a little concerned about my knee replacements and arthritis.  The Missionary Department asked if we would consider going foreign 18 months or longer.  We pondered, prayed, and received a peaceful feeling that all would be well.  We told them we would go anywhere they needed for 18 months.  Soon after that we got our call to the Fukuoka Japan Mission.  This is in southern Japan, far from Tokyo area where we had served as mission presidents 20 years earlier.

At this point the "fun" began.  We dusted off our Japanese language materials, and even set up Skype language tutoring with church MTC.  We found a little time here and there to study.  My best study times were waiting for oil changes, car repairs, or riding in the car while going places.  Glenn listened to Japanese Conference talks while running or other times.

One of the wonderful miracles was our daughter Gaylene, her husband Chris and their family volunteering to live in our home while we were gone.  Chris had just gotten a job back in Utah with BYU.  This makes a long commute, so we are grateful for their sacrificing to do this.  Our other children have rallied also.  Brett and Nicole live near our home and will help Chris and Gaylene with various aspects.  Justin and Lucinda, Maryann and Clark have given us a lot of love and moral support.  Maryann and Clark are helping us set up this blog.  That's a huge job.  We greatly appreciate each of them.  

While gathering shoes, clothes, and miscellaneous to take to Japan, we realized that it would NOT fit into the four suitcases we were allotted (each being 50 lbs. or less).  We had heard from other senior missionary couples that it is easy to reach the 50 lbs. limit before the suitcase was completely full.  We decided to go with midsize suitcases instead of the biggest.  So guess how many times I “repacked” the suitcases?  About six.  I did a practice “pack” with no success of fitting it in.  I tried again and almost succeeded, but was over the weight limit.  It was hard using a bathroom scale, so I finally bought a small hand-held luggage scale (best $18 I ever spent).  I pulled a few things out and tried again.  My motto became “simply and reduce.”  Finally we got it in.  I was worried that they would open to inspect them at the airport, then not be able to close it again.  Here’s another miracle.  The suitcases made it to Japan with no problem.  

Preparations were still needed to clean out closets and bedrooms so Chris and Gaylene and family could live in our home.  So we spent months sorting:  1. Keep.  2. Give away. 3. Throw away.  I became very creative in juggling boxes to store, and hauling things to DI.  It was actually very liberating to sort and get rid of things.  I recommend it to everyone.  

When Gaylene’s family moved in we had just under a month together to show them how to operate things around the house and yard.  We loved that time together.  We also had a little time with Maryann’s family, Justin’s family, and Brett’s family.  

There are the “Four F’s” which make it difficult for senior couples to serve a mission:  “Fear, Fitness, Finance, and Family.”  Those are all important but family is the most important.  It is hard to leave your children and grandchildren.  Another miracle for us is how wonderful and supportive our family is.  We love them, admire them, and thank them for that.  So we can leave knowing that they will watch out for each other (even though they are spread out in Utah, Idaho, and Florida).  

We spent five days in the Provo MTC.  It was such a special time.  We stood by the world map, pointed to Japan, and took the traditional photograph.  Even though the MTC chapel was full of senior missionaries they divided us into districts of four couples.  Most of our instructors were BYU students so we had a morning team and an afternoon team.  The apartment was like a hotel room (with no TV).  The staff was amazing, motivational, and inspirational.  The food was wonderful and delicious.  There were many buffet choices.  We were grateful for the fresh cut fruit at every meal.  The MTC was a great experience.  

Finally it was time to fly out.  We were really nervous!  Every step of the way on this journey we would say “We can call it off and stay home, or we can choose to go.”  Somehow we took courage and chose to go.  

We have been here several weeks.  Glenn is somewhat used to driving on the left side of the road—do you ever really get used to it?  We are getting used to walking down the hill over a few blocks, and then up the hill to the church.  We actually try to walk as much as possible.  We are grateful for a sweet house and are getting used to the different ways to cook and other things.  We are grateful for nice neighbors who say hello (konichiwa), and that we feel safe here.  We are grateful for clean water and an abundance of fresh fruit and food.  

The language is still difficult, but I learn a few words each week.  At this rate I should know a few dozen words by the end of eighteen months (Just kidding—I hope). 

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