It was special this week to be able to celebrate the birth of our Saviour as full time missionaries and a very positive experience. At the same time it was a difficult week since this was the first time Maurene had been away from family for the Christmas season and I don't think it was much easier for me although I had experienced it as a young missionary a few years ago. The opportunity to share the season with the young missionaries and help them through what was difficult for some of them was a highlight however.
The best part of the week came on Sunday as we had the baptism of two Young Single Adults, Richard and Dani. It was a wonderful service and many members stayed to witness this great event. I had the privilege of confirming Richard a member of the church which was great since Maurene and I had attended many of his lessons and he has been a regular at our weekly YSA family home evenings. Richard is a native of Ireland and Dani is a recent arrival here from Brazil.
We decided on Tuesday to Wednesday to do some more Billion Graves work at the cemetery in Mungret, St. Nessan's. It was a nice clear morning so a good one for taking the photos although it was very cool. Maurene needed a couple of things for the Christmas Eve dinner for the missionaries so we decided to drive over to a store to get them and that was a mistake. The traffic was bumper to bumper for a long ways so it took quite a while. Another "Vive la Difference" moment. Here the residential neighbourhoods are arranged so that there is one road in from the main road and that same road is the one road out. They call them estates here. That makes for very quiet neighbourhoods traffic wise but puts a lot of stress on the main roads. With the traffic circles the roads are as efficient as they can make them but most of them are narrow and there aren't many options to get from A to B. So if it is busy at all, you need to learn to be patient!
We spent most of the day out shopping for groceries etc. for the meal we were hosting for the young missionaries here in Limerick on Christmas Eve. It is challenging to host a meal here because adjustments have to be made because of the kinds of food that are available to purchase and also because there is not a large well equipped kitchen like the one Maurene is used to at home.
Christmas Eve was a very busy day. First of all I got quite a surprise that morning. The doorbell rang and it was the mail man with a small package. It was my new practice chanter that I ordered from Frazer Warnock in Belfast. I ordered it online on Tuesday and never dreamed it would arrive here already especially with it being Christmas and everything. The mail system here is amazing!
We spent most of Christmas eve afternoon getting food ready and also spent some time having a video chat with Kailey and Caleb. They were celebrating Christmas on Christmas Eve since Caleb had to go to work Christmas Day..
The missionaries came over at 6:00 pm and we had a nice turkey dinner. Then some of them watched a movie on my MacBook Pro and the rest of us had a game of hearts. We had a great evening together and it was nice to have all of them over and spend some time together relaxing and it was nice to help make their Christmas a little nicer. They are very dedicated missionaries and really do work very hard and are obedient. They gave us a really nice photo/Christmas card. We sent them home with a chocolate orange each, a Christmas tradition over here. Very nice evening indeed. While we were doing the dishes we had a FaceTime chat with our kids in Lethbridge. Corey and Julie and their family came down to Lethbridge for the day and Jay was over there too. So we got to have a nice visit with them and it was nice to see them get together and for the cousins to have an opportunity to play together. It was a good Christmas Eve!
We had a very enjoyable Christmas Day too. We slept a little longer than we usually do. When we got up we exchanged gifts. Maurene got me some goodies to eat and also a new pair of Star Wars pyjamas. Corey and Julie sent us this amazing little book that was full of photos of their kids along with humorous things they had said. That afternoon we went over to the Faloon’s place. He is the branch president here and he and his wife are wonderful people. He is from New Zealand and she is from Australia. One set of Elders and the sister missionaries were there to Skype home. After they were finished we had Christmas dinner with them. It was a delicious huge meal and just as delicious a dessert. When we got home we had a FaceTime with Skye and her family and also one with Scott, Stacey and Archie. It was wonderful to be able to have a visit with them on Christmas Day. It wasn’t the usual Christmas but we really had a good day.
On Boxing Day we had a long but good day. Four elders and two sisters came over to our place. We made them something to eat and they watched two Disney movies in our living room on my MacBook Pro.
During the Christmas season it is important to reflect on and celebrate the birth of our Saviour Jesus Christ. We were able to do that in abundance here in Limerick. It is also an important time for family and we missed ours greatly although being able to spend time with the young missionaries and celebrate the season with them was a blessing.
We'll finish up with some random photos from Limerick!
We have been wishing that things would get a little busier for us here in Limerick and the old adage "Be careful what you wish for" came true for us this week. It was a great week in which we feel we accomplished much and it was also very rewarding. The highlight of the week had to be Yuan's baptism on Saturday. We have been attending lessons for her with the Elders Wall and Jarosz as well as going over on our own to teach her English. She is a wonderful woman and she and Sister Wilson have become close over these past few weeks. She is from China and has lived here in Ireland for 11 years now. She and her husband have been working in a Chinese restaurant so her English has not progressed as much as it could have but she is determined to improve it. There was a very nice baptismal service on Saturday afternoon and Maurene gave the talk on baptism. I had the privilege of confirming her a member of the church at Sacrament meeting on Sunday. We are so happy for her!
One of the realities of the young missionaries experience is that they get moved around quite often. It was transfers this week so we had to say goodbye to Sister Buttars who is going to be serving in Paisley in Scotland. Sister Muller went to the mission home to pick up her new companion who is a brand new missionary fresh from the MTC. So we drove them to the bus on Tuesday for their journey to Scotland. We went back down to the bus depot late Thursday evening to pick up Sister Muller and her new companion. Her new companion is from Switzerland and her name is Sister Muller. This is funny for about 30 seconds until you realize that we are going to have to live with this for a while and figure out a way of addressing them so they know who we are talking to.
One of our responsibilities is to inspect the apartments of the young Elders and sisters and make sure things are working properly and in good order and safe. We have an apartment here in Limerick with four Elders living in it and in one of the bedrooms the two Elders sleep in they each have a double bed. Well, it is a small bedroom so there isn't enough room to turn around in. So I contacted the mission home to ask if we could purchase a couple of single beds and got the go ahead. So we went to a furniture store and picked out a couple of solid wood single beds with mattresses and they delivered them on Friday. I went over Friday morning to help take apart and move the old beds and the new ones were delivered and set up. A big improvement for them. Also, I had asked the Elders to request some things of the management group that looks after the apartments and on Saturday they brought over a new toaster and microwave and are going to make some other improvements to the apartment that are needed. It makes us feel good to be able to help them out in some small ways.
In the branch, they have a Sunday school class for Young Single Adults taught by a member of the branch. Well, she had been called to a new position in the ward so the branch president called and asked if we would teach the class for the time being. No indication of how long that will be so I assume it will be for a while. So I taught the lesson on Sunday and it went well.
We have been thinking about involving the YSAs here in the Billion Graves project. It is an online database of the gravestones in cemeteries all around the world. Maurene has found it useful in her genealogical research. So we thought it would be a good idea to start using the app and submitting photos of gravestones in the cemeteries here ourselves before involving others. So we went to a cemetery not far from where we live on Wednesday to do just that. The cemetery wasn't listed in their database so I created a new cemetery entry on their app on my iPad. That went well and we were able to take photos of about half of the gravestones in the cemetery that morning. We went home and uploaded the photos to their website and then we transcribed the information on the gravestones so that they would be searchable in their database. It all went well and we will continue to do that work and hopefully involve the Young Single Adults also soon.
On Saturday after the baptism we had the ward Nativity play. Maurene played the piano for all of the musical numbers, we sang a song in a group of missionaries and three of the Elders played the parts of the three wise men in the production. It went really well and we had an enjoyable evening.
We had our usual weekly Family Home Evening on Sunday evening in our home and this week we had the Christmas white elephant gift exchange. We had 13 YSAs attend which was a new high attendance and we had a great time together. The gift exchange was a lot of fun and we had some delicious treats. We are going to take a break for the holidays for a couple of weeks and then resume in early January.
Another couple of Vive La Difference posts. It is interesting that the people in Ireland think that what we would call tacky Christmas sweaters in Canada are cool! Lots of people wear them this time of year and wear them to parties etc. over the holidays. The stores stock them and they are very popular. If they have flashing lights on them all the better! I have posted a couple of examples below in case you are not sure what I am talking about.
Also, parking here is incredibly difficult given the amount of traffic and how narrow the streets are. So basically they park anywhere they can find room, on sidewalks and despite no parking signs. It is sometimes difficult to walk down the sidewalk because of all of the cars.
So it has been a very busy but an excellent week. We are looking forward to this next week and especially being able to FaceTime with our family at Christmas.
There are many things that bring us joy in this life. The gospel of Jesus Christ brings us great joy and we so enjoy being His missionaries and serving the people of Ireland as best we can. This week we had a baptism here in Limerick that brought joy to a lot of people. A young man, Sterling, was baptized and we were privileged to be able to attend his baptismal service at the chapel here in Limerick. We were able to help with his teaching a bit and look forward to working with him as he learns and progresses in the gospel as he is Young Single Adult age.
This week we took the opportunity to travel a few kms from Limerick and visit a small town called Newport. One thing that brings great joy to Maurene is genealogical research. I am still working on it! Some of her ancestors way back in the 1700's came from the Newport area before coming to Canada. So we went out there to see if we could make any connections by visiting the churches and cemeteries. It was a long shot since it was so long ago but it would have been worthwhile just to see and walk where they were so many years ago. One of the first things we saw on the main street of the town was a butcher shop with the name English on it, one of the surnames we were looking for. We had a nice chat with the owners but they didn't know any family history. We looked around in the town and had a nice lunch at a small local cafe and found out that there was a old rural cemetery outside of the town. So we got directions and when we finished lunch we made our way out there and it was a beautiful old place. Again no connections but it was great to be able to see the cemetery and ruins of the church there.
Sharing a meal with others brings joy to most of us this time of year. On Tuesday of this week we went over to the chapel in the morning to help the Relief Society president with preparations for the supper that evening. We set up tables and chairs and decorated the tables and Maurene helped with food preparations. We then went out and purchased a few things for the supper and the get together that evening was a success that was enjoyed by many women in the branch.
Singing carols this time of year brings joy to me and I know to many others. You don't have to have the best voice or be a polished performer to enjoy the songs of the season and feel the spirit that it brings to us. We had the opportunity to join the young men and women of the branch and the other missionaries to visit an old folks home close to the chapel and sing the songs of the season to people who lived there. It was a wonderful experience and I know they were thankful that we could come and perform a small service for them. We look forward to having the opportunity to sing carols again next week in the downtown area of the city.
We have tried to make our little home look a bit more Christmasy this month with some small decorations and lights and a little tree. I certainly enjoy the lights at Christmas and the decorations and feel like in this darkest time of the year with the least sunlight they are very welcome. Friday was one of those days in which not a lot seemed to be going right. After doing some grocery shopping we stopped in the city centre to see the lights and it really lifted our spirits. We had some supper at a little cafe and enjoyed the crowds and the lights and the festive atmosphere. The animated display on the side of a store was one we knew our grandkids would have enjoyed a great deal. No "Happy Holidays" here in Ireland!
There is no doubt that one of the greatest joys of the season is to be with your family. We are certainly sad that we are going to be missing that this year and it will not be easy but we are hoping that they will feel of our love for them and our desire for all that is good for them. We rejoice and find joy in celebrating the birth of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, We find joy in serving Him here in Ireland.
We are called to serve so we decided at district meeting this week to try and do some community service this week. On Friday morning we gathered at the church wearing the helping hands shirts, those who had them, and went out to gather garbage in the neighbourhood around the chapel. We started with the grounds around the chapel and went out in the community from there. It was a pleasant morning and after a couple of hours we had gathered 8 big garbage bags full. The Elders had opportunities to talk to a few people in the community to explain who we were and what we were doing. It was a morning well spent.
The Young Single Adults in the branch also decided to offer some service this past week but in a different way. They decided to offer babysitting to families with young children on Saturday afternoon so the parents could go out and do Christmas shopping without having to worry about their children. We had three families drop their kids off so we spent the afternoon doing crafts, playing games and having snacks. It was a great way to provide some service and the parents expressed gratitude for this opportunity.
One way we get to serve here in Ireland is to go around and inspect the apartments of the young elders and sisters here in Limerick. So that means that we inspect three apartments every six weeks. We check to make sure that they are keeping their places clean and that they have everything they need. We also ensure that things get repaired or replaced as needed. This has been a very positive experience for us so far and it feels good that we are able to help them out in some small way. They are wonderful young men and women who love the Lord and work hard.
We were thrilled this week to gain a new member of our family. Quincee Gray Varty arrived on Thursday, December 3 and weighed in at 9 lbs. 6 oz. Skye has her children by C section so we knew exactly when to expect her but it was no less thrilling. Since she was a good size the delivery was not easy and we are thrilled that both Skye and Quincee are doing well and are back at home now. Needless to say, this is a very difficult time for Maurene as she would love to be there to serve and of course to snuggle the new arrival. But friends and ward members are stepping up to help and that helps relieve the anxiety somewhat. Congratulations Skye and Aaron on the newest member of your family!!
This is the blog of Elder Tom and Sister Maurene Wilson of our mission to the Scotland/Ireland Mission.