Sunday, December 30, 2018

Happy New Year from Warm Arizona with pictures

I am having a great time in Arizona. The best part is being able to see green grass (yes even in the middle of the desert) and plants and trees with leaves. It has been one of the coldest weeks they have here, but it is still 30 degrees warmer than Rexburg.

I was able to see some of my old friends from BYU days. Some of them I have not seen in over 20 years. They still look the same! 

Bryce (my friend who baptized me) also came to Gilbert and we went to the temple together. It was nice to see some old friends and catch up. The Gilbert temple was beautiful.

I am staying with Bob and Sue Allen who I knew from the Jerusalem center. They are still as amazing as I remember. I love this couple, they just serve others every day of their lives. They have done everything in their power to make my stay here enjoyable. They planned a fireside for me to speak and they have been bragging about me to everyone they see. Even the people in the street who they don't even know. 

On Friday, they took us to a Lebanese Restaurant. It was amazing food and great company. We got to watch the belly dancer also. The guy was playing live music and kept playing Fairouz (my favorite singer) and it made me feel like I was home!

My sweet friend Meridith drove me to Tuscon where I met with my cousin Rana and her husband. It was nice to see them and spend time with them.
Who knew the desert could also be beautiful sometimes...Only when it is not too hot.

We went to Christmas lane to watch the lights...sorry not great pictures:

And we fed the fish that seemed so full and spoiled...

 Wait, a waterfall? In the desert?

I finally got to go to the 'Giving Machine'. There are very few of those in the world. Our Church started these and it has been a great success. They partner with various charities around the world. Our church pays all the fees of getting the things and so all the money we donate goes directly to the people in need. I got to donate: two chickens, a fish farm, and clothes for refugee children.

It was so easy to donate using these machines that I had to walk away because I would have kept buying things.  You could donate vaccines, school supplies, air fare for refugees, food, ...etc. I almost bought the goat and donated that, but the chickens were cheaper. 

This morning the Allens had a baby blessing in their home for one of their great grandsons. They have a very big family (9 children and 50 grandchildren-almost). We had 70 people over at their house and it was nice to see everyone. We will see how many names I remember by the end of this trip!

I hope that this new year will bring you and your family blessings and happiness. I promise you that as you follow our Savior, you will find an increase of love and joy this coming year. I see the difference in families that have the Savior at the center of their lives and those who don't.  And His name shall be called wonderful, counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting father, the Prince of Peace...and that He indeed is! He brings peace and joy into our lives.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Merry Christmas

Christmas came fast! I had a lot to do before, but I didn't have time to get everything done. I really didn't want this season to be very busy, but that is almost impossible.

I got many gifts from people, neighbors and friends. Thank you all for remembering me and reminding me that this season is about giving and loving.

I even got a gift or two from my students. And the one that gave me the plant below was not really trying to get extra points because she already had an A in the class. She was so sweet to think of me.

I got to meet a young woman yesterday who has a testimony of the gospel and wants so badly to join the church. Sadly, she needs her parents approval and they won't give her permission (at least not yet). She has a strong testimony and knows in her heart the gospel is true. One of her family members beat her really badly just because she was wanting to convert to Christianity. He broke her back and arm. Yet, she is still determined to seek after this new faith and she dreams of getting baptized one day.  

I hope that we can learn from her example and defend our faith and stand as witnesses of Him who came to earth as a humble babe and grew up to be our Savior and Redeemer. 

As I look at beautiful sunsets (even this one that happened at about 4:30 pm on the shortest day of the year) I am grateful for our creator who made this beautiful world. He coordinated all the colors to make everything so amazing and magnificent. 

 I went to the temple the other day. The ordinance worker looked into my eyes and said she felt how much Heavenly Father loved me. She didn't have to tell me, I knew how much He loves me. I am so blessed. Every time when I reflect on my life I see His hand in it and see how He has walked with me every step of the way. 

I am grateful I have a family that allowed me join the church and practice my faith. My mother is a great example to me of service and love. When I talked to her the other day she wanted to make sure I was taking my vitamins and was worried what would happen if I slipped and fell since I live alone. I assured her that I have neighbors and friends here that watch over me.

I still miss being with family during the holidays. My sister had a little party today and she distributed the gifts I sent to her grandchildren. It was nice to see them smile and enjoy the little gifts I sent. But, my heart longs to be there...I am now thinking that I should go home for Christmas instead of the summer so I can celebrate the holidays with my family. But, I wish the trip there did not take 3 days. It makes our 2-week break too short to go back and forth. I am thinking it is about time science invents a machine that can transfer you anywhere you want to go in the world. Don't you think we need that?

I am grateful for the Romrell family who has adopted me into their family. I spend Christmas with them almost every year and it is as close as I can get to spending it with my family. Even the 94-year old grandmother sent me a card with money the other day for Christmas. When I called her to thank her, she said she sends money to all her grandchildren for Christmas. She said: "I used to have 31 grandchildren and now I have 32!" 

Merry Christmas everyone. I hope you will enjoy this season. But, I hope that in our busy time as we try to buy gifts and cook and travel that we don't forget why we have Christmas. I loved this message my friends sent me for Christmas. They said that all would be lost if it was not for the Savior. And they mentioned the hymn "away in a manger" and said that if we add a space we will understand that because of Him there is "a Way in a manger". He provided a way to save us. Without Him there would be no resurrection, without Him there would be no salvation, no joy, no peace, no hope...He is the way, the only way. The babe in the manger is the way.

Here is a video that I wanted to share at the end...
Click here to watch the video

Sunday, December 16, 2018

The end is in sight

A few more days and the semester will be over. This has been a good semester, but it was more busy than normal and I will be so glad when it is over!
I am getting less and less interest in my blogs. I am thinking of discontinuing it and starting one in Arabic instead. 

Things are starting up again back home and innocent people are again being harmed. I hope there can be justice and peace someday in my land. I watched a video that made me sad about all the Palestinian children being held in Israeli prisons. I don't know how a child would be mentally ok after being interrogated and staying in jail for months. Once this is all over, IF it ever does, someone will have to fund massive psychiatric help for the Palestinians.  
The weather here has been cold, but not too cold. It is not in the negatives (Fahrenheit). I am so close to becoming a local. Because I already don't think freezing temperature is cold. I don't think it gets cold until it is about -10 or so Celsius. I even find myself saying to myself "it is 32 F (0 C), no need for a jacket". 

I guess you know you live in Rexburg when you see your neighbors using a snow mobile on the road and skiing on the road. And when hilly roads are used as ski slopes. And when you see people in T-shirts and shorts when it is 32 degrees F (0 C). Actually, people here seem to wear short sleeves even in -10 degrees. I'm not there yet and don't know if I ever will be. But who knows.

We have finals this week then graduation on the 19th. I will have to grade a few exams and then we will be done. I am looking forward to having a few days to rest before I head to Arizona.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

People are Good

I am surrounded by good people here. I can't believe how kind and good some people here are. The world is not that dark after all. There is light all around us, but sometimes it is hard to see.

Last week we went to a humanitarian center. People there volunteer their time and money all the time. The person in charge actually said that they require reservations because they have so many people wanting to volunteer. They make quilts, toys, clothes, ...etc. and donate them to the poor and needy all over the area. We got to work on a quilt which was not necessarily my favorite thing to do, but it was nice to be able to help in a little way.

These are jump rope handles that people make out of wood and paint them. Then they braid fabric (I think) to make the ropes.

Here are some of the quilts we worked on:

There were even little children volunteering to color wooden toys that were going to poor families.

Yesterday, I tried to go to Walmart early before it starts to get busy. Sadly, it was already busy...but it was good because I got to watch the 'shop with a cop' program. This is where kids from families who are poor are given a chance to go to breakfast with a police officer then go with them and shop for Christmas gifts. All of the money for the gifts are donated. The children can choose anything they want. There were bikes that were bought, dolls, toys...

I also heard from my friend the other day that there is someone who donates 250 thousand dollars every year. This money is split up and $10,000 donations are given to families who need it. Last time they gave it to a family who took in 4 orphans after their parents committed suicide.

Americans are busy, they fill their lives with many things and end up with so much to do. Sometimes more than they can handle. But, as I see all the good that is being done around me, I am filled with gratitude. I'm grateful I live in such a place where there are good people who serve and give of their time and money to help those that are less fortunate. 

I always complain that the temple is busy when I go...but the other day I sat down and just looked around me and was again filled with amazement. People who are SO busy would take time to come to the temple to serve even those that are dead. 

Today our ward was split. It is always sad and exciting at the same time. We got a new bishop (but he's amazing) and we will probably have a bunch of new callings. I will miss many of our Young Women who will end up in the other ward. I am hoping I will get to stay in my YW calling. I do love serving with these amazing young women. I guess we will see what happens in the next few weeks.

The temperature finally dropped to the negatives (-3 F or -19.5 C). I feel it is too soon for that, but winter is here...And it is here to stay.  It did get warmer this week and the snow was even melting today.

Last week they had a live nativity in the center of town. They had a donkey, camels and people to do the Christmas scene. Sorry it was dark and there were so many people in front of us that it was hard to get a shot without having people's heads in it. I loved how in the end Santa came up to the manger and took off his hat and knelt.

I struggled with my Christmas tree this year. I was not too fond of my tree nor the decorations. I did my best this year to make it look better without spending too much money. I bought every possible decoration from the stores and kept trying them until I found something I sort of liked. I am glad I can return things here because nothing would quite match what I had already. I finally ended up making my own bow and doing my best to make it look nice.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Make a Difference

I got busy yesterday decorating my Christmas tree and I did not have time to write a blog post. I'm still not sure what to do with my tree to make it look good. I am so bad at this decorating thing. I am trying ribbon this year and am going to see if that makes a difference. I did not like what my tree looked like last year. I don't want to buy a new tree. I think I will buy one when they are on sale AFTER Christmas. But, for now I am going to make the one I have work.

I am writing a short post today to encourage you all to try to 'Light the world' this month. Sometimes I only do service to others during December, but it is better than nothing. I think what you do does not have to be organized, you just have to do something for others. Our church suggested the following order, but so far I have done only one thing to 'Light the World' and quite a few for "lighting my community".  Sometimes what you do is as small as sitting and listening to someone share their problems. Or giving a hug to someone and telling them they matter. Or giving a Christmas gift to someone you just met who really needs to be lifted.

Week 1: Light the World.
Week 2: Light your community.
Week 3: Light your family.
Week 4: Light your faith.
I have noticed that little things we do make a big difference. I guess this African proverb makes you understand what I mean: "If you think you are too small to make a difference, you haven't spent a night with a mosquito." 

Last week, I got up and was late for work, but found out I have a few inches of snow on my driveway.  My snowblower would not work, no matter how hard I tried to get it running. So, I tried to shovel enough space to get my car out. Since I was trying to do it fast so that I am not late for work, I got really tired and my back started hurting. I left for work and had a really long busy tiring day. And all day I kept thinking about all the snow that I had to shovel when I returned home from work and how I was going to get my snowblower fixed.

I got home to find that Don Romrell (my friend's father) had come from Sugar City and shoveled all the snow from my driveway. Then after that he spent two hours trying to get my snowblower working. When he couldn't, he took it to his shop and fixed it and brought it back! I was speechless! There were a few times when someone's service has brought me to tears, but this one did because I was just so tired after a long day at work.

I have learned that things we say can also make a difference. They can prevent someone from ending their life, or giving them hope. One of my students who was trying to take his own life told me that a friend told him something that made a difference and made him change his mind about committing suicide. We don't know what people are going through. They could be THAT depressed and we would have no idea.

I gave a talk the other day, and one of the women in the audience came up to me and with tears in her eyes told me that what I said seemed to speak to her heart and that she really enjoyed my talk. I get people that say that sometimes and that really makes a difference to me.  But, this was the only time I have seen someone actually make a change in their life because of what I said. That is why what she said the following week touched me.

The same lady I mentioned came to my office the next week, and this is what she said:

"After your talk, I went and bought your book and was reading it all day. I could not put it down. My 6-year old daughter asked me what I was reading and asked me to read the book to her. I told her it was too difficult for her to understand, and I started just telling her about it. She said: 'No mommy, just read it.' So, I read to her the part where it talks about how you knelt down to pray to know the Church is true. My daughter looked at me and said: 'Mommy, I never prayed to know if the church was true, can we pray?' They both knelt down and prayed. After that they decided that before they ask, they should read the book of Mormon. So, they have been reading the Book of Mormon together every day." 

I am grateful for her and for her faith and for taking the time to come to my office to tell me that. It really meant a lot to me.

As I mentioned, the little things you do for others don't have to be big. Just let your light shine. That light within you does not come from you. It comes from the Savior who is the light of the world. The more you follow Him and are obedient to His commandments, the brighter that light becomes.