Friday, April 24, 2015

Week Seventy-seven

WEEK SEVENTY-SEVEN December 23, 2014

Sent three articles on Patriarchal Blessings to the One family. Told Sister One I would recommend in preparation: Elder Widstoe, President Monson, and me, “Your Personal Liahona.” Also attached is the recipe for baked cauliflower. Thanks for an enjoyable evening last night. You guys are wonderful. Love, Jerry and Jan. She replied, “Thank you! Do you guys need any help loading your car for your return? Please let us know.” I told them we only had a few banker boxes to put in the Santa Fe. Should take us about 10 minutes and thanked them for their offer.

Had a birthday dinner for Sister Haddock tonight at Outback Restaurant in Foothill Ranch with the MP and his wife. Turned out we knew a number of people in common, even a family in our home ward. They lamented we had not done this monthly. They really have had no one with whom to talk. They were able to unburden themselves of some cares without concern about where their comments might lead. Sister Haddock commented that they looked more relaxed as we left the restaurant. We received a note from them, “Thank you very much, Elder & Sister Haddock. We thoroughly enjoyed the evening. It was quite amazing to see how many people we knew in common. Thanks for great work you've done here! Thank you for your example! God bless are going to be greatly missed.”

I was reminded today of a sweet experience some fast Sunday’s back that I forget to include in this journal. During the administration of the sacrament the young priest made an error and had to do the prayer over again. One brother visiting got up to bear his testimony and told how much he enjoys it when there is a mistake in the sacrament prayer. Said he, “It reminds me that no matter how many times I mess up, because of Christ I can just start over.”

This year with all the comings and goings decided to send out an electronic Christmas message to our loved ones here in the mission field which seems to have been greatly appreciated. Glad we took the time to do it. Included was this statement, “Thank you for you rich, warm welcome. Our 18 months with you could not have been better. May the Lord's choicest blessings continue with you abundantly. With love and great affection, Elder and Sister Haddock

Sent to our first Mission finance secretary who is now home, “Sister H and I had a birthday dinner (Jan's) last night at Outback. President said, "I don't know how this mission would have even been able to start, let alone function, without Elder Litchfield. I have never met anyone who is more willing to serve, whatever needs to be done, as Elder Litchfield." We joined in the chorus so your ears must have been itching last night.

Further timing on our release must have been inspired. Jan has developed a corneal infection and after two weeks of treatment doctors here are throwing in the towel. She called her specialist in Provo who has given some counsel that is encouraging and will come in from his vacation Monday to take a look to see if they can save the eye.

Wednesday evening families of the Aliso Creek ward came to dinner at Sizzler on El Toro Road, taking up nearly the entire back room. It was so good to see and visit with those we have so come to love and see the smiles and here them mention the memories that have touched them. Grand event. So nice of Bishop Robinson to do this.

At the dinner tonight, the Two family gave us the following card: “Do you know what a beautiful difference you make? Just want you to know that it’s true. And just as you give from your generous heart… Our heart is so grateful for you. Thank you for blessing our lives in so many ways. We hope you make it quickly home and wish you many blessings and opportunities at home. Love”

I told Brother Four that I am going to remember his frequent prayers requesting the Lord to keep us safe from “incidents, accidents, tickets and arrests.” He replied, “Thank you very much my friend. I took the liberty of inviting some members of Reach Church to join us in the caroling. Do you think its ok? Instead of inviting them to Bishop Robinson's home, I said we will meet at that park right there by his house. Hello Elder Haddock, I have been in denial about your going home. We will miss you greatly. I really appreciate your brotherhood with me as we serve in the ministry and just as much the friendship and trust that I have developed with you. I thank God that we met. What day are you leaving? As an update, I contacted a few nursing homes in Lake Forest and so far one has confirmed for Monday 12/22/14 @ 6:15 when Tidings of Joy Christmas Choir (shhh, that's us) will come and perform 3 Christmas carols in hope to spread some joy in the lives of those often forgotten in nursing homes and leave them with the message that God has not forgotten about them. I hope to have members from the LDS Church, Saddleback Church, and Reach Community Church to form this choir. We will meet at Rimgate Park. Although you will be gone home by then. I believe that you will be with us in spirit. Are we meeting tomorrow?” I replied that we would be there tomorrow and then to pack up Thursday.  Then said, “I'm with you brother I'm having a really tough time leaving those I love so much.”

Had a thought I want recorded. Idea came to me that Pride is a derivative of the four P’s: Power, Possessions, Popularity and Prominence.

Tonight our last night in the mission field we attended the mission wide Christmas Party at the Irvine Stake Center. The stake or one of the wards had decorated the place up beautifully to our benefit. Brother and Sister Wong cooked the entire meal for all 200 plus missionaries. Quite a feat. When the announced we were leaving they asked me to say a few words, I started with, “You can’t imagine how overjoyed we are that the entire mission would come together like this and throw such a party for us our last night in the mission field.

Friday morning we packed up the car and bid farewell to our apartment at 407 Saint Vincent, Irvine, California and our wonderful, wonderful mission. We drove straight through to Las Vegas staying at the Tahitian Village where we met up with Kerri and family. The kids wanted to ride the lazy river at the village. It was in the 40s and windy. About died as I stepped out to get dried off. 

On Saturday we attended the baptism of Owen Drake Langston, Mark’s nephew, who was baptized by his father who himself was baptized just before our mission. We had grand festivities and a meal at the chapel later.

We got up the next morning and took off for St. George where we had a delightful meeting with my Aunt Shirley and Uncle Ken. Then on to Provo, arriving in the late afternoon with a stuffed car.

Not all heartwarming senior missionary experiences deal with baptisms. We were introduced to the Twenty-One Family when we received a call from a bishop informing us he had just been contacted by a bishop in another location asking him to look up this family, which consisted of a mother, father, and four and two year old daughters.

The mother, a lifelong member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, had suffered a rocky upbringing as a child, but somehow had pulled her life together. Our visits as has turned out have increased her ability to cope, deal, and leave behind ugly memories that had haunted her. She caught the eye of the father while they both were teenagers. He, an only child, was crushed when they budding relationship was terminated as her family created such roadblocks she was not permitted to see him.

During this time he enjoyed a number of dreams that charted his course with clarity, all of which would be a wonderful story in and of themselves. So prompted by the interpretation of those dreams he sought out the young woman again and they were married despite all the objections and interference.

After the two daughters were born, another series of dreams played out for the young father resulting in him meeting with the missionaries and eventually joining the church. However, virtually simultaneous with his baptism the ward split, leaving those they knew in the “other” ward and within a few weeks the bishop suffered a stroke leaving the young family untended and forgotten.

It was upon their move to Lake Forest a previous bishop called the local bishop in Lake Forest to inform him of this family. It had been some time, as they had first moved to Irvine where they lived for several months before coming to Lake Forest. They had no contact with the church while living in Irvine.

Invited by the bishop to meet the family and report on them, we called but suffered some difficulty at first in connecting with them and then in engaging them to allow a visit. Fortunately Sister Haddock possesses sufficient charm and persistence that a meeting was finally arranged.

Their neighborhood features a locked gate providing no access pad so our first visit was one of suspense as we waited down the street for someone to trip the gate so we could enter. The two daughters were so shy they would not come out to meet us during our entire visit. The parents we kind, somewhat responsive, but clearly not really interested. But oh how that has changed.

We set up a return appointment that got cancelled as the date approached because of sickness. Which in turn was followed by a couple of more cancellations for the same reason. Finally we made another visit and began teaching them the discussions again, this time with a little more depth than they had heard on their first go round. We set up around the table so we could draw out explanations as we discussed them allowing them to “see.” Many questions were asked and they expressed surprise alternating between “we hadn’t understood that” and “oh, that makes so much sense.”

Slowly the young girls began to come out periodically during or visits. We brought over the elders quorum president for one visit with us and interviewed him as to his role as president and how the father would be included.

Finally they committed to come to church but they didn’t show up. Later we learned they had driven to the church, a big ward of nearly 800 members, and the mother became overwhelmed with the large number of people, who “had it all together” and decided she didn’t “fit in” and they returned home.

So our next visit we brought by a recent extroverted convert who made the process fun for them and offered to sit with them at church next week. The recent convert with our assistance also became the mother’s visiting teaching companion and the elders’ quorum president assigned the father as his home teaching companion at our suggestion.

Several more visits followed when to our surprise and of a sudden their two “shy” children, both came up to us and hugged us, which surprised the parents completely. I rolled a ball with the oldest while Jan spoke with them.

At another meeting with the family Sister Haddock did “Itsy Bitsy Spider” with the two girls over and over again as they laughed and rolled on the floor crying, “Again! Again!” As we were leaving the father asked if on one of our upcoming visits we could teach him how to read and study the scriptures, which I assured him we could do and we have done. We again left serenaded by “I love you’s” as we walked out the door.

Well things progressed for going through all the discussions together, then preparation to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, then the mother obtaining a copy of her patriarchal blessing and the father preparing to receive his which was another adventure. He had a marvelous experience only to have the Patriarch call a few days later to inform him that the recording had been erased and the father needed to return to receive the blessing again. He handled it well confiding that he didn’t expect many were able to receive two patriarchal blessings. I pointed out that maybe the Lord had a hand in this as the patriarch had told him this had never happened before and because of some illness the mother was not able to be there to hear the blessing and now she would be able to participate with him.

Later, I had given the father a blessing as he was getting anxious over a work situation, enough so that he was looking for other employment. The blessing said to be patient. I had him give me a copy of his resume which I sent to some acquaintances to help him. Then one evening when I announced we were getting to the end for Melchizedek Priesthood preparation he said, “Oh that is bitter sweet. I really want to receive the priesthood but we have so enjoyed our weekly lesson and visits with you I don’t want them to end.” Then he shared this story. “Two weeks ago while driving past the San Diego Temple for a work project, I found myself praying over my work situation. As I was praying I felt an answer from the Lord. I was to be patient and a big change was coming soon. Well the next week my boss quit and my best friend and current supervisor was named the new boss. I couldn’t be happier. Not sure I want another job now.” We had a wonderful discussion about prayer, discerning the answer to prayers and he shared another experience. “In high school my buddy and I took a couple of girls to the prom. It was held at some air museum in Hollywood. We decided to up to the Hollywood sign but didn’t know where we were going and ended up on Mulholland Drive going west. Neither of us had ever been there before. My buddy was a religious sort. I was not. He had tried and tried to get me interested and I told him it held no interest for me at all. We finally realized we were going the wrong way and I had a feeling to turn around. Where was the question? I told him I felt after the next bend in the road there would be a turn off on the right. There was and as we turned off, to cars came roaring past us, one in each lane racing one another. They would have creamed us had we stayed on the road. That got me thinking. There is a God. I had been given an impression. That started me on a search, I knew something was out there but didn’t know what or which until I found the church.” We got another “I love you” and wave from their daughters as we left.

To my surprise previous to the date selected for conferral of the Melchizedek Priesthood and ordination to the office of an elder, the high councilor informed me that the father had asked for me to perform the ordinance and he wanted to know if the following Sunday would work for me. I had suggested to the father that the elder’s quorum president perform the ordinance. Later the father spoke to me stating “you have become such a part of our family we would be honored it you performed the ordinance.

The date selected was Father’s Day. At our meeting a few days before we expressed what a joy it had been for Sister Haddock and I to have been associated with them. By now the children were coming up to us each visit and Sister Haddock spent most of the time with the children crawling in and out of her lap on the coach while I shared a very animated discussion, at their request, about how to mark scriptures showing them my study version and others as well, my reasoning for what I did, and reminded them how to do it doesn’t matter. We also gave them some marking pencils, rulers, and color markers which they were grateful to receive. Each time we leave now the two daughters follow us out the front door and tell us they love us.

As we gathered in the bishop’s office I made a few introductory remarks and proceeded with the ordination. Following the ordination the Bishop was asked to make a few comments by the high council representative. The bishop said, among other things, “Elder and Sister Haddock have been like lightening from heaven. Just as lighting brings clarity in a dark forest glade, they have brought spiritual clarity to your lives. It’s as if they have become your spiritual parents now.”

Everyone was emotional and in tears. The father then said, “We are so grateful for Brother and Sister Haddock. They are the parents we never had and the grandparents our children never had. What a great blessing they have become in our lives. We will never forget them.”

The mother then spoke of her love for her husband. “I knew what a good man [he] was. When I made the decision to marry him, which caused all kinds of family problems, I knew who he was. I didn’t know when we were going to get here but I felt we were. To have it happen now, to be here with Brenden fills me with so much emotion. We are so grateful for Elder and Sister Haddock coming into our lives.”

We have been able to make introductions to ward members including one who formerly played in a rock band, as did the father, and they immediately hit it off and have become friends and participated together in several gigs already.

Family history introductions have followed along with temple preparation. Following his ordination we participated together in consecrating some oil we procured for him, have reviewed all priesthood ordinances and blessings together and are preparing him to give a name and blessing to his two children for his first blessings.

One morning when we finished walking we drove over to Costco’s to fill our gas tank for our trip to San Diego Temple for the Twenty-one family sealing at 3 p.m. I asked Sister Haddock to call and she learned they had gone down the night before to alleviate any problems with the young ones and were having breakfast. Sister Haddock happened to mention asking what time they needed to be there. She said noon for the 1 p.m. sealing. We had thought all along the time was 3 p.m. as they had advised us a week ago. So we had to hustle back home, get showered, dressed and back in the car. We arrived just before noon as the family was driving into the same parking lot.

A Brother Despain performed the sealing. He asked, “Why are these two missionaries here?” Noticing that only Sister Haddock and I were in attendance and sitting where the father and mother normally sit. Brenden answered, “Because we wouldn’t be here right now if it weren’t for them. They are our spiritual father and mother and we are so grateful they are here with us today.” Several stopped us in the temple and noticing our name tags, offered wonderful confirmation of the value of senior couples as missionaries. One of the presidency came by, “Okay you two, being here there must be a special reason.” I shared with him our experience with this wonderful family culminating today in their sealing and that of their children. A sweet couple consented to participate as they came through the veil and he served as the second witness. The girls were precious and so well behaved. Following the session we went outside and took pictures. I selected three of the schedules for the temple which have some beautiful pictures for their scrapbooks.

At our last visit the father said, “When we received the discussions from the young missionaries it felt right to be with our peers and our friends. But clearly we needed something more. We needed a mentor who could guide us along the path which isn’t so clearly marked as one enters. To have the two of you in our home every week has been a wonderful blessing for which we will ever be in your debt. We needed someone older, with more experience, and understanding. We have been able to share things we couldn’t share with the young missionaries and feel comfortable in doing so. Thank you. Thank you. We hope we will be able to enjoy a relationship with you for the rest of our lives. We don’t know why the Lord called you to this mission, but if it was just for us, we will be ever grateful to the Lord.”

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