Monday, November 28, 2016

Lest We Forget

We have been so busy and it is way past time to update our blog. November 11 was Remembrance Day in Canada. It is the three day school and government holiday for November. For some people it is a day for the family to get away. But there were also people who were celebrating Remembrance Day. Every Community had a Cenotaph. We enjoyed seeing how Armistice Day is observed in Canada. In the United States it is called Veteran’s Day and has parades, poppies and memorial services. School doesn’t typically get out, but there are assemblies in most schools where Veterans are assembled and honored by the student bodies. And in both Canada and the United States, it marks the 11th month, 11th day and 11th hour that ended World War II.

The word cenotaph is derived from the Greek kenos taphos, meaning "empty tomb." A cenotaph is a monument, sometimes in the form of a tomb, to a person or group of persons buried elsewhere. Ancient Greek writings tell of many cenotaphs, although none of them survives. Existing cenotaphs of this type are found in churches (for example, in Santa Croce in Florence, where there are memorials to Dante, Machiavelli, and Galileo). The term is now applied to national war memorials.

For the missionaries, November 11, was a zone conference. Some of our zone came to Grande Prairie the night before because of the distance. Those companionships who are 1 to 1.5 hours away came in the morning. We all met at the church and carpooled to the hockey arena for a Cenotaph.

We all had been wearing our poppies since November 1.

All 22 of us went to the top of the arena. 

It is not a huge arena, bleachers seat just under 3,000. The ice was covered with plywood and by the end of the ceremony the floor was frosty. The room was cold. Cold air blasted the whole time from all the vents. 

These two military men came in first and maintained this pose for the whole program, 1 3/4 hours.

They didn't move at all.

The floor filled with processions entering to the pipes and drums.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) was impressive.

The two groups in front, closest are the Canadian Beavers, Cub Scouts and Scouts.
The front groups farthest are the Canadian Brownies and Girl Guides.

The Grande Prairie Boys Choir sang Oh Canada, and that was followed by 2 minutes of silence at 11:00 A.M.

There were welcomes and prayers and someone recited Flander's Field. (It was written by a Canadian Army doctor.)

There were special musical numbers from the choir. There were 43 separate departments, groups, and organizations who were escorted by cadets with pomp and ceremony to lay their wreath on the Cenotaph. At the end about 15 families brought wreaths to be laid on 
the Cenotaph.


This is the last family placing their wreath. The entire congregation sang How Great Thou Art at the end. Then attendees could place their poppy on the Cenotaph.

Attending the Remembrance Day Memorial with the Grande Prairie Zone was such a great experience. We all grabbed a bite to eat and met at the church. President and Sister Pattison drove from Edmonton and met us at 1:00 when we started the Zone Conference. The Zone Leaders and the Sister Training Leaders gave us good training. It was good to connect with Sister Pattison again. We hadn't seen her since we arrived on July 11, at her home. 

President Pattison interviewed the 20 Elders and Sisters the rest of the afternoon and evening. We met with Pattisons at their hotel at 7am Saturday and had breakfast with them. They both enjoyed hearing about our missionary experiences so far. Next time they come, they want to meet the Dude. 

I am thankful to those who have served their country in foreign wars to maintain peace and security at home. I am thankful to those who gave their lives and for their families. I am thankful to be serving a mission in the Canada Edmonton Mission. We are having some really great experiences. A 76 year old man walked up the stairs to the top of the arena, sat on the step next to me and we talked for 15 minutes before he returned to sit with the group of veterans down on the floor. I am thankful for the letters and prayers from our family and friends to support and encourage us. We love and appreciate all of you. Jon, we are praying for the job to be your job.

Love, Mom, Grandma, Sister Brown and Robyn

Friday, November 4, 2016

From beginning to now.

The beginnings of the church in Grande Prairie.  A District was formed in the Peace River in September 1948. The first Sacrament Meeting in Grande Prairie was the following April 12, 1949. There were 22 members there, one had come from Slave Lake. Also attending were 16 missionaries and the mission president from the Western Canada Mission. The Canada Edmonton Mission was organized a couple of months later. The mission president's name was Parley A. Avery. He later became an assistant to the Twelve Apostles. President Avery presided and gave a short opening. Then he gave a dedicatory prayer for the new District and opened the meeting for testimonies. Following all the testimonies he was the concluding speaker. The meeting opened with the song, “We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet” and ended with “God Be With You Till We Meet Again.” As a side note, those were the two hymns sung every Sunday thereon until December when new hymnbooks arrived on the train. One of the missionaries at that meeting was Phillip P. Sonntag who later became a member of the Quorum of the 70.

The meeting was held in a rented hall called Memorial Hall. It was across the street from the Bose Crystal Gardens (Canada Games Arena). It is now called the Revolution Center. (Home of the Storm)
Later the Church bought a piece of land and hauled in a WWll hut from the air base until construction of a building. 

The first phase of two chapels was finished in 1964. Elder Thomas Monson from the Quorum of the 12 came to Grande Prairie and Dawson Creek to check on the new buildings. He traveled from Calgary to Edmonton, Edmonton to Grande Prairie, and Grande Prairie to Dawson Creek BC and then back, on gravel roads. The headlights on the mission car, were broken by flying gravel, and had to be replaced when he first got to Edmonton, and on his way back in Grande Prairie. They were replaced a third time when he got back to Calgary, along with the windshield.

On April 12, 1998, The Grande Prairie Stake was formed by Hugh Pinnock, a member of the Quorum of the 70. The first Stake President was Lenard R. Shaw. 

The Canada Edmonton Mission was organized on 1 July 1998. During a six-province tour of Canada in July-August of that year, President Gordon B. Hinckley visited the members in Edmonton. He visited in Lethbridge on 2 August. Also, that summer, a group of Church members and others interested in historical re-enactment, began a 735 mile wagon trek from Preston, Idaho, to Cardston to memorialize the early pioneers who settled Alberta. The caravan of 14 wagons and 90 people left Preston on 10 August and arrived in Cardston on 28 September.
The Edmonton Temple was dedicated on 11-12 December 1999 by President Gordon B. Hinckley. It was one of the first smaller scale temples constructed by the Church. At the time of dedication, Church membership in Alberta numbered about 63,000. The first Church Educational System satellite fireside broadcast hosted outside the United States was held in Calgary on 7 May 2000. Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve addressed the worldwide audience.

As I have said before, Elder and Sister Brown are working with the YSA for the Grande Prairie Stake. Past blogs show maps and tell about the size of this stake. There are 4 wards - Wapiti and Bear Creek in Grande Prairie, one in Dawson Creek, and one in Fort St. John. And there are 5 branches - Valley View, Fairview, High Prairie, Peace River, and High Level. A YSA group exists in Bear Creek, Wapiti, Fort St. John, and Valley View. One is being formed currently in Peace River. Keep watching for further news of YSA as it continues to happen.

Pictures from some YSA activities

YSA like to play Mafia. On this night, Sister Brown randomly pulled "vampire" from the hat, for three games in a row. It made for an interesting evening.

In September we traveled to Fort St. John Ward, 2.5 hours away and in B.C., to be with their YSA. We played volleyball and that group is good  We watched and provided the treat. The sister missionaries were there with two investigators. 

Playing Apples to Apples and  Melissa and Doug Suspend game, two YSA favorites.

The Elders came with two of their investigators. They had to get loaded up and had plenty to choose from. Nathan, one of the investigators said it is his favorite activity so far.

Board game night is always fun and challenging. The Elders came for a few minutes to check up on Scott, an investigator.

We met at the twin's home to "Make your own pizza" 18 people had a really good time. There were 3 investigators.

This night was a gym night, another favorite activity. Half of the YSA play basketball. Some of the rest play chair soccer. And, two sit and watch, a third was injured.

These three are getting ready to play the 2016 YSA Cwazy Quest. Teams from individual wards had to go different places to do stuff and send in the pictures and videos. The pictures and videos were put into a slide show and we watched the results at a YSA Stakewide party after the Saturday Adult Session of Stake Conference. Two wards and one branch had teams that played. The week everyone would have been doing the quest was really stormy which prevented two other units from getting together to play. Winter came early to Northern Alberta this year. It also affected how many YSA were at the Stake Conference.

Bear Creek Ward - reading Dr. Suess at the library.

Wapiti Ward - a stretch. Take a picture in front of a sign saying the name of your city or town.

Peace River Branch - take a picture of your team standing on a picnic table.

We watched the slideshow of the group's pictures and videos. We had refreshments and handed out prizes. A bunch of people left to go home. The remaining group played two-man games, and rotated every 5 minutes. It was a fun way to compete.

Halloween night was stormy. But we had lots of fun playing flashlight games. 

Aha!! The Relief Society sisters from the two wards in Grande Prairie joined together for Super Saturday. Sister Brown did these four crafts and helped tie a quilt. It was a fun time. Do you like our tartan tablecloth? It was made at an earlier time and I am making two tartan Christmas stockings.

We hope all of you are doing well. We are doing well. Winter makes a new change to things. We don't travel to the far reaches. We lost three hours of daylight in October. We keep busy, but also find ourselves with free time on our hands. And what should we do? We are almost finished reading Jesus the Christ. 

President Gordon B. Hinckley“This is the restored Church of Jesus Christ. We as a people are Latter-day Saints. We testify that the heavens have been opened, that the curtains have been parted, that God has spoken, and that Jesus Christ has manifested Himself. …
“God be thanked for His marvelous bestowal of testimony, authority, and doctrine associated with this, the restored Church of Jesus Christ.
“This must be our great and singular message to the world. We do not offer it with boasting. We testify in humility but with gravity and absolute sincerity” (“The Marvelous Foundation of Our Faith,” Ensign, Nov. 2002, 81).

Love, Sister Brown, Robyn, Mom and Grandma

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Sometimes it just feels right

Once everyone got back from holidays and school started, the wards started having ward council. During our first ward council the Bishop asked us to try and check on a member they hadn't seen for quite a while and they wanted to be sure he was OK. His name was Mel and he was one of the founders of the Church in the Peace Country. Heavenly Father helped us find Mel's house which was unmarked and out in the bush. His son Peder wasn't so sure he wanted us on his property. But when he saw we were missionaries we were greeted. He even invited us in to see his father, Mel. Unknown to us, that day was Mel's 93rd birthday. He was eating a bit of supper. He reminded me so much of my Dad, I just wanted to hug him and hold on to him. I'm sure he wouldn't have liked that.

It just felt like we were supposed to meet Mel and Peder, so we went to the house again and took Mel some oatmeal raisin cookies so we could get to know them better. They are his favorite and he enjoyed eating them. We intended to get back, but before we could make a third visit, Peder called us and Mel was in the hospital. We made a visit there. We visited every couple of days at first and then a little more frequently. One day Peder called and said "Dad just passed away, can you come?" We went to be with Peder and stayed with him 7 hours until the doctor came and pronounced Mel dead. Normally it wouldn't take that long, but Peder wanted the family doctor.

We had known Mel about 6 weeks. He didn't say many words to us, but we talked to him. We visited with Peder while he was at the hospital with his Dad and at a care center as he visited the "Dude". He told us lots of stories about his Dad, and with his Dad, and about the Peace Country where we are serving.  We love both of these special men, Mel and Peder.

The "Peace Country" known for its Prairie, the Boreal Forest, the Rocky Mountains and the Peace River, one of the longest river systems in Canada. Cities include Grande Prairie AB, Dawson Creek BC and the city of Fort St John BC. The Peace Country includes many Hamlets, Towns, Cities, Rural Farms and Ranches in north western Alberta and also north eastern British Columbia. Many refer to it as the Mighty Peace Country. 

Mel on his 90th birthday.

Mel had been a scouter in the Peace Country since he moved there from Saskatchewan in 1961. The local Scout Council wanted to have an Honor Guard at the funeral. Peder wanted me to be part of the Honor Guard. (I knew bringing my scout uniform would come in handy.) I read the tribute of the Old Wolf.

The Old Wolf has gone on to the Happy Hunting Ground.
We wish him all the best as he continues on his journey.
May the wind always be at his back.
May his compass always point true.
May his canteen always be full.
May he always have a warm bedroll.
May he always have dry matches and dry wood for his campfire.
May each night be a celebration - a big roaring campfire with songs and laughter.
And, may every hunt be a good hunt.
May the angels watch over him.
Good night, good hunting.

We went with Peder and the rest of the family to the cemetery. I took pictures of the road because you would never believe it, but they are nowhere to be found. I can explain it and I think you can imagine what it was like. The road in front of the little country cemetery was a mud quagmire. The cemetery is little and cars don't go into it. The cars parked on the side of the road and just sunk into the mud. The middle of the road was like sticky slime. It splooshed and splashed with each very careful step, so that mud was splattered on our lower clothes. It was snowing so we didn't stay long.

We returned to the church and all the people from the funeral were still there for a luncheon of finger foods. There was an  outpouring of love for everyone who knew Mel.

Now let me tell you about Chris, the "Dude". Chris was in a quading (four wheeler) accident 28 years ago, when he was 17. His injury left him as if he is paralyzed. He has full sensation in his body, but has no control over it, so he can't sit, stand or walk. He can't swallow so he has a feeding tube and he can't talk. His mind is totally functioning. He was from Grande Cache, two hours away. After he came out of the hospital in Edmonton, he came to Grande Prairie to be closer to his family. In 1998 Mel and Peder were assigned to home teach Chris. He didn't have a lot of visitors at the time. Mel and Peder have visited Chris three times a week ever since. They have taken other members of their family to see Chris, who has been nicknamed the "Dude" They have also included the missionaries serving in the area to see the Dude on Saturdays. We started to include ourselves in this as well. Mel stopped attending these visits in December.

Peder has the Dude's room decorated with things to look at. He keeps the Dude engaged. He gives him a spiritual lesson every time. He walks him around the care center and on good summer days will push him to a park a mile away. Peder quips that he has told the Dude more about his mission to North Carolina longer than he even served the mission.

The Dude loves his lumberjack hat. He has a hat collection of all sorts of hats.

All the missionaries have written their hometowns on labels and they are all over the wall.

This wall has some of his memorabilia.

He can sometimes make his right arm do what he wants, especially in a sword fight. He is taking on Elder Brown and two other elders in these pictures.

There is a small refrigerator in his room. Peder keeps a few of Elder Holland's favorite soda pop in there in case Elder Holland ever happens to visit the Dude. I don't know the significance of this. Every guest is offered a beverage when they visit Chris.

It takes a long time to communicate with Chris. He can answer yes and no questions with two of his fingers. It is slow going, but can be important. Chris communicates really will with me with just his smile and his eyes. He has heard all of Peder's stories for years and he seems to be enjoying mine on the times we go in to see the Dude and Peder is not there.

One of the highlights of our mission is meeting all three of these special men. God knows and loves each of these men.

I know God is our Father in Heaven. He knows all of us personally and loves us more than we can comprehend. He wants us to be happy in this life and return to live with Him. He provided a plan for us to accomplish that. The plan is called the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel of Jesus Christ blesses all who accept and live it. It is in the family that we learn these truths and happiness the best. Family relationships can be challenging at times, but our Heavenly Father blesses us as we strive to learn and follow the teachings of Jesus Christ.

God talked to His prophets and His word was recorded to His children who lived in the Holy land in the Bible. Some of the prophets He talked to were Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Moses. He also talked to His prophets who were living in the New World, the Americas. And those prophets recorded God's word given to His children living there. Some of those prophets were Lehi, Nephi, Samuel, Mormon and Moroni. God's word to His people in the Americas is recorded in the Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ. All scriptures teach about God and are a special witness of His Son, Jesus Christ. He gives revelation (direction from the Lord) to the people,  Prophets hold the priesthood, or the authority to speak and act in the name of God to lead His children. When people follow the prophets they receive the blessings God has promised to His children.

The prophet who is Heavenly Father's representative today, is Thomas S. Monson. I know President Monson is our prophet. It was revealed to me by the Holy Ghost. I testify that these things are true.

I know God knows and loves all of you. And I love you, too.
Sister Brown, Robyn, Mom, and Grandma

Monday, October 17, 2016

Thanksgiving is over. Winter is here.

Thanksgiving is over in Canada and winter has come. It is not rare for an early winter, but having it this early is unusual. The Farmer's Almanac predicts a really bad winter in the Peace area this year. Maybe everywhere in Canada.

We were getting the oil changed in our car when we got a message from the Mission Office to park all cars and continue with activities on foot. We did go home first and waited for the storm to finish.

Dealership car lot. They plowed the parking lot.

View from our patio.

Parking lots don't get plowed. And neither do main or side roads.

The plan of attack for roads is to let them get a little snow packed and then to put gravel on the road for traction. And of course you can't plow a gravel parking lot. You would just have more mud.

More differences about driving in Canada. We have seen two accidents while living here. Both were animal caused. We have never seen even a fender bender while being here. I'm sure there are a few. The speed is tracked by robo cop. The fines for speeding are stiff. A camera will take a picture of the back of your car as you run a red light and the ticket mailed is expensive. So, people stop on a yellow light. And the speed limits are less than in the states. If there are people picking up trash, or mowing, or work of any kind on the shoulder of the road, you better not go over 30 km/hour. Fines are doubled. They only put out a temporary sign to warn you. School zones have one simple sign, no cones or blinking lights. The speed limit is 30 km/hour, ALL day.

30 km/hour = 18.6 mph, School zone and workers along road.
50 km/hour = 31 mph. Residential streets
70 km/hour = 43.5 mph. Divided bypass road in city, and any highway construction zones.
100 km/hour = 62 mph. Highway, 2 lane. Cross traffic.
110 km/hour = 68.4 mph. divided highway. Cross traffic. There are no freeways or interstates.
The speed signs posted say Maximum speed limits. There is no wiggle room for 1 or 2 km/hour over.

There are so many trucks. Pickup trucks make up the majority of personal vehicles. And then there are the commercial trucks. Logging, and lumber trucks are three trailers long. Gravel, fuel, sand, trucks and flatbed haulers are 2 trailers long. There are specialty trucks - drilling rigs, crane trucks, vacuum trucks, and specially outfitted oil patch trucks carrying fuel and supplies for the equipment in the field. Trucks make up a huge portion of traffic.

All Greyhound buses pull Greyhound trailers.

We got out to Saskatoon Island Provincial Park before it snowed. The trumpeter swans were in range for us to watch. And we also saw a red squirrel so close he could have sat on Elder Brown's shoulder.

Red Squirrel

Frost on the grass.

Canadian Geese standing on the ice sheet.

Ruffed Grouse

Swans moved away from the ice as we approached.

Swans were close to the ice until we got there.

Large gathering of geese in sheltered bay.

We continue to find neat places as we explore the Peace river countryside. This old barn and this Lutheran Church are nearby.

We headed to Fort St. John and had thanksgiving Lunch with the YSA there. They wanted to make sure we had Canadian food. We had ham, poutine, corn, salad, candied yams with marshmallows, butter tarts, and Smarties. We made Lion House rolls, definitely not Canadian. but, the raspberry jam I took is. Raspberries grow well here and are plentiful. Poutine is Canadian. However it is showing up in places around the States. Smarties turned out to be a version of M&Ms. The butter tarts with the pecans sure looked like pecan pies to me and the plain tarts just didn't have pecans. They were proud to tell me that pecan pie is Canadian because the French invented it. We reminded them that the pecans come from the Southern United States and maybe Creole French cooks from New Orleans invented it, but they were definitely Southern bakers and chefs.

We have been on our mission 3 months and a few days. We still feel new. YSA is a constantly changing field. We still have many more ysa to find. Our October activity for the entire stake will be this weekend. We are excited about it, just not sure the participants are. It is too bad that the weather turned bad.

We also love teaching Institute.We are studying Foundations of the Restoration. Last night's lesson was the organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  And what we learned - - it is the same organization as the Church of Jesus Christ that Christ established during His ministry. Christ's church went away for almost 2000 years. It was called the Apostasy. Heavenly Father knew there would be an apostasy. Through an Old Testament prophet, He said:

"Behold, the days come...that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord: And [people] shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it." Amos 8:11-12

After the death of Jesus Christ, the members of His church were persecuted and the Apostles were killed, and the priesthood authority-including the keys to direct and receive revelation for the Church-was taken from the earth. Because the Church of Jesus Christ no longer had the priesthood authority, the teachings changed. There were many good people who still believed and searched for truth. People like Martin Luther and John Calvin recognized that things had changed and many parts of the original Church of Jesus Christ were lost. They tried to reform the churches, but without the priesthood authority, Christ's gospel could not be returned to its original form. Christ's church was like a beautiful plate. The plate broke. Many churches had pieces of the beautiful plate. But nobody had all the pieces and could put it back together.

That is why we are on this mission. To tell the people in this little part of the world, Grande Prairie, that the plate has been put back together. All the pieces have been found. The Church of Jesus Christ that was formed while Christ was on the earth, has been restored in the latter days. That is now. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, aka Mormon Church, is on the earth today. Our Heavenly Father has brought back-restored-divine truths that you can learn and live. If you don't know this and would like to know more, ask us. We can share more.

We were both born in families where our parents were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We were taught these principles. But being born into is not enough. Even if you have heard these things all your life, or you are hearing them for the first time, you need to find out for yourself if they are true. Everyone can know if the things they are learning are true. You can ask your Father in Heaven if it is true and He will testify the truthfulness to you by the power of the Holy Ghost.

I know God is my Heavenly Father and He loves me. I know Jesus Christ is His only Begotten son. I know Jesus atoned for my sins and voluntarily allowed Himself to be taken and crucified that through His resurrection we can live with Heavenly Father and Him when we leave this life. I know the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the same church as the original Church of Jesus Christ. I am glad that I am a member. I'm thankful I am on a mission, so I can share with others, that they may also know. I know these things are true. I know you can pray and find out for yourself.

I love all of you. I pray for all of you. I miss all of you.
Sister Brown, Robyn, Mom and Grandma