As we look back on the events of this week, we feel that the over-riding feelings are of love and gratitude for the good people we have been privileged to associate with. Our activities have been of such variety and we don't want to bore you with too much, but we hope to be able to share some of the great experiences.
First of all we are still chuckling from the fun time we had one evening attending the first meeting of a SR Finance group in Belfast. We didn't realize that great dry humor and sarcasm is characteristic of Northern Ireland folk. We have known that Brother Moffett, former bishop of the ward, is always giving a friendly "dig", but we didn't know that it is quite common. (He is the man with the framed "live your dreams" artwork that has a big "cancelled" sign on top of it.) As we observed more than participated in the lesson, we just kept getting such a chuckle of how everyone could tease each other almost mercilessly--and in the same minute share such a deep spiritual insight. After awhile, we started taking notes of the things they said both funny and serious. To share a few:
The lesson introduced what is called a "finance map" that is a graphic house-shaped model of ideal finance priorities. One lady suggested that she make a larger copy to put on the bulletin board and asked if others thought it would be good. They all agreed, but then added, "just don't crochet or knit it"---and another said, "and I don't think an ice sculpture is needed either".
At the end of the lesson, the people organize themselves into "action partners" to give mid-week encouragement by contacting each other. They were quick to do this and then the directions were: decide on a suitable means of communication. (phone, text, email)
One older man said, "Smoke signals work for you?"
One of the group said: "Life isn't easy, but it's worth it." Someone quipped back: "It better be worth it, because if it's not, I want a refund."
Their spontaneous dry wit combined with their heavy Northern Irish accent just kept us in stitches. but then just as easily one lady commented, that "regardless of how disciplined a person might be to do the things they commit to, they could never be completely successful without the help of the Lord." We were so impressed. In the very first lesson she had summarized the essence of keeping our commitments and covenants, which has so much power in the SR program.
Another incident: We have been having a Job Search class now for 11 (of 12) weeks. Most of our class attendees are Brazilian immigrants who wanted jobs, but were not having any luck. One returned missionary is notably dependent on Irish Government support. He is incredibly shy which has resulted in him becoming incredibly lazy. We have been trying to get him to be motivated to go to school and work, but he lives at home and is quite comfortable. To his credit he has been to every class --because he wants to change.
That night for the class, we wanted to encourage more to come---because now that most of them have good jobs, they don't have the energy to go to school, work, and come to a class that already met its purpose, but we wanted to have a bit of a sharing of best things learned to encourage the Irish lad to keep trying to get a job. So since it was Grandpa's birthday, we invited them to come for a party. It worked quite well. We had several come and it was a fun time, ending with the advice sharing.
After several weeks together, the members recognized the excuses of the Irish lad as weak excuses and their comments, though we didn't say give advice to him, were directed to him and were not too gentle. Some said things like "nobody is going to come to your door while you are sleeping and ask you to come and work." After class we emailed him to encourage him to try harder to do the things that he has learned and the next day we got a quite offended email back, saying he didn't appreciate the comments that made it seem like he just slept. We tried to soften the offense, but still encourage him to try more. We hoped he would not get upset and totally quit coming out.
To our surprise, the next day he emailed us again and said that everything the others had said was true. He really did sleep most of the day and was so bored with life. He really wanted to get back to be more like he was on his mission and find happiness again. It will still be hard for him, but his honesty, humility, and recognition of his problem was incredible. It reflected the values that the class had been studying and showed us such great character.
And, as for the Birthday.....Grandpa had a fun time. He was given cute cards by several--and thank you to all you who also send cards and greetings---and one girl in the class even gave him a present. She came late, and shyly pulled a package of Frankfurters out of her purse that she had made a special trip to find, because one time they asked what food he missed from America---and he said hot dogs. Frankfurters are closer to hot dogs than anything else, so he was delighted for her thoughtfulness.
We didn't make a bigger celebration of his birthday than this, but it was fun to have those come who made such special effort.
Later in the week we got a follow-up phone call from a Bishop that had attended the Bishop's Council meeting of the previous week. He had talked to us about a man he had thought could serve as their Ward SR Specialist, but after hearing Grandpa say they should choose the best possible person to have this calling, he decided to do just that. Wow! The man he called is so impressive! He had been the former bishop, then moved to the States, started his own business, taught at BYU, and returned to Ireland recently to bring his business to Ireland. When we met with him it was like our roles were switched. He had more vision for how this could bless lives than we ever thought anyone would think of. He had met one of the church employees who was working to implement it, and has been excited ever since. He is anxious to be able to share his talents and influence to bring it to his ward. If we were to have his position, we could not do as well as he will---and he wants to start immediately.
On Saturday, we were invited to have a SR display at the Clondalkin Ward Prepared ness fair. It was another big blessing for us. We have several good friends in that ward (because this was the ward we taught Foundation class to each Sunday evening) so it is fun to be there, but the fair was a great success and brought great success to our efforts as well.
First, the SR specialist for this ward does not have the vision of the above mentioned ward, but is a sweet, very busy, lady who needed a little help to get things rolling with further classes. The display was an attraction for lots of conversations and by the time the specialist arrived, quite a few had signed up. She was so encouraged and will be able to get it moving forward. The other great thing that transpired was that the brother of the above ward specialist, by then had learned of his brother's excitement and was willing to be a facilitator for a class in this ward (a badly needed vacancy to fill).
As for the Preparedness Fair, we gained such an appreciation for how easy things are in the States. It is so easy for us to get dried foods, wheat, grains, beans, etc. But here in Ireland it is not easy at all. We do see some grain fields, and some granaries, but truly there is no outlet to buy them for storage. Those who have any wheat, for example, have quite small amounts that they bought over 10 years ago when the stake made a concerted effort to buy a truckload from England. One lady had a Vitamix blender to grind wheat, but our elaborate food storage options are beyond a dream here. We felt we just had to say little to nothing about our opportunities and resources or it would just make them feel terrible. In addition to no resources, their home storage spaces are extremely limited too. They have no basements, rarely garages, and quite small homes, so most wouldn't even begin to know where to put much food storage. We felt very blessed that we have been able to get food storage so easily ---and want to encourage anyone who is not comfortable with their food storage to do all you can, because it is so much easier than these saints will ever know.
After the fair, we drove across to the west coast, to Galway, to meet with a branch SR specialist before we presented in their Branch the next day. It was a delight to meet him and his family. He has had the calling for sometime, and has wanted SR to be started, but has not been able to move on it because of resistance in the branch. (Hard to explain or understand even for us).
We spent a few hours with them and felt such faith and happiness even in the little children. Little Sophie, just a month away from turning 8 recently decided she wanted to read the B of M before she is baptized, and so the family is working morning and night to meet the goal. She plans to be baptized in the same river her father was baptized, same date, 9 years later--and we are invited to attend. We hope we can make it, but either way we became friends with the little kids as well as the parents.
The success we felt the next day was another breakthrough so we realized Ireland had formally added 3 significant wards/branches onto the active list in just one week! We see the work progressing and are grateful for the miracles we are seeing.
All of this comes to the one point that we have been realizing with more and more frequency: the Lord's hand is manifest in so many ways in missionary work. None of the things we have had the privilege of witnessing would have happened if it were not for the Lord directing things. Our testimony is now stronger than ever that the Lord is interested in the details of people's lives. He cares about His children and will orchestrate circumstances to bless them. If any of us sincerely contemplate the defining moments of our lives, we will see that the Lord has been instrumental in shaping events that bless us in so many ways. This knowledge makes us humbly grateful.
One last thing: we found an honest-to-goodness Leprechaun house and took pictures of it, which we have attached to the blog. One of the pictures shows Grandma trying to phone the Leprechauns inside because she couldn't get them to come to the door. Now that we know that these little houses exist, we will increase our efforts to find more, and we will document our finds with pictures to send to you.
As always we send our love, and want you to know how much we are praying for you. Thank you for all of your support and love.
Grandma and Grandpa
Mom and Dad
Lynne and Lanette (What lovely Leprechauns we are, Aye!)
Elder and Sister Pettit
I met a little elf man once, down where the lilies blow,
I asked him why he was so small and why he didn't grow.
He slightly smiled and with his eye he looked me through and through
"I'm quite as big for me," he said, "as you are big for you!"
We loved their little front fence and the pointed roof was just fun.