Sunday, April 01, 2007

Naknek, Alaska * Bottom of Alaska, Top of the world, a truly Heavenly experience!

Main street in Naknek.
My friends are reminding me that I haven’t sent out a letter or put it on my blog page for some time. I guess I don’t know how to describe a missionary experience quite like we are having. It is anything but typical and way to much fun to be called work. First let me describe Naknek – a small village of about 600 people. We have a trading post, a tiny awesome library, a school for all ages, a restaurant, about 8 bars and 8 churches. We have one road, Peninsula Highway 1, which leads to King Salmon, an abandoned air force town, about 18 miles away. Our address is Peninsula Highway Mile 1.5 or Box 508 99633. Or don’t put any address on at all the postmistress knows everybody in town. As does everyone else. We did not move to this small village unnoticed.

Home is where the heart lies.
The church, our home, is among the bushes, just off Peninsula High Way 1 on the left and about 500 yards from the Naknek River on the right. There are very few drawbacks and a lot of things we like about living in the church. There is always room for lots of people to come for activities during the week or meetings on Sunday. One of the two classrooms is our bedroom and we each have a bathroom marked “women” and “men” so we don’t get confused. We have lots of room to exercise in. We have a “small” church kitchen but large compared to the tiny kitchen we had in Anchorage and no kitchen at all in Fairbanks. We are always up in time for meetings and our home is always clean for company.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
The Tundra between Naknek and King Salmon, they say is beautiful in the spring, which can’t be far off now. When we first arrived, January 4th ,the temperature was –38 and with a wind (we never had wind in Fairbanks so this was new to us) it was VERY cold. This last week in March the evening temperatures hover around zero. The day time temperatures are from 20 – 40 above. That sounds warm but there is always a wind blowing so it really hasn’t been very warm yet. It doesn’t snow much here but we had ten inches last week and every few days we wake up to hoare frost covered trees, so beautiful! Living at the church we don’t have to get out very often and the cold just doesn’t bother us. The church is warm and cozy.

Our foxy friends and others.
Naknek is a commercial fishing village. Eighty percent of the Red Salmon catch is from here. Anyone in town will give us salmon and we love it! We have become fanatics about high and low tide. High tide brings in the whale and seal and low tide bring the eagles to fish along the shores. So many picture taking opportunities! We saw a small herd of caribou, about 50, and a large herd of moose, about 20. Usually the caribou run in herds of a couple of thousands as they migrate through Naknek and moose don’t get in herds so it was unusual to see 20. This little red fox is our pet. He comes outside our back door at 7:20 every evening to step into the church and eat doggie treats out of our hand.

Across the frozen river!
Our friends at the library took us over to South Naknek one beautiful day in cold January. That is the only way there, to drive across the river. There are only appx. 50 people living there and they have a “flying school bus” to bring a teacher and a handful of kids over to Naknek for school each day. The ice was very bumpy, there were pockets of water standing on the ice. We were a bit nervous but Burt drove over in Al’s truck. They went ahead and Al got out and checking each “puddle”, pronounced it safe, then Sheila and I drove across in her 4 wheel drive. Two weeks later they drove a 28,000 lb piece of equipment over and residences are still driving today, the last week in March.

Up above the world so high!
It was so exuberating to cross that frozen riber but then we were offered a ride in a helicopter through the Katmai National Park and along the Aleutian and the Alaska Peninsula Range, and Oh, My Goodness! The former branch president flew us to the Brooks Falls where the bear come to eat salmon each summer, to the top of glaciers, down and around steaming volcanoes, to the Valley of the Ten Thousand Smokes and we saw a sun set from up above the world that stretched from one end of the sky to the other. Words can’t describe it! I felt like I was in heaven and could almost imagine how God feels when he looks down on this beautiful world! We have over 600 photos to show you when we get home.

The Heavenly Kingdons!
In Naknek we have done family history, volunteered at the school, cleaned the church house for meetings and activities, talked and/or given a lesson every Sunday, and performed all the branch presidency duties, and written a news letter every month. We plan a game night every week, a Napoleon Dynamite party, weekly YW/YM activities, YW conference High Tea, a Conference Sunday brunch and pot lucks galore! But the crowning moment in our mission experience was when we invited a family to hear the gospel. (This picture of them is at the Napoleon Dynamite party). They accepted and we have started teaching them. They come out to all the meetings and have searched their whole lives for the gospel. They are humble sweet people, have wonderful family values, and will be such an asset to this struggling branch here in Naknek. This is the reason we were sent here. With only 11 members of which only 2 are active, they were considering selling the chapel. You can’t hold church when the only members are a man from one family and a woman from another. Well, we haven’t activated any of the “hard core want to be lost Alaskan Mormons” but we found instead a wonderful couple who could add so much strength and a reason for church every Sunday. Pray for us and we will send you a picture of them being baptized in “Paradise Point”.

It is conference weekend. I love to hear from these prophets, seers, and revelators. I am so thankful for Joseph Smith and the Restoration of the gospel. Everyday here in Naknek is evidence of God’s love for his children.

We love you all and will see you soon,
President and Sister Robbins

Sunday, October 22, 2006

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Hmongs, Mormons, Snowflakes, Temples

A wonderful trip to Homer Alaska and we saw some awesome Glacers.
On the way home we happened on "Teal Lake". What wonderful fall colors!

Weather Report: High 42 Low 34
Sunrise 8:56 a.m. Sunset 6:30 p.m. = 9 hours & 30 min.

Last Sunday we were excited to open the newspaper and read on the front page and two whole pages about our missionary, Elder Bennion, serving among the Hmong (silent H) people. He is among the best missionaries here and learned the Hmong language easily. He has since been transferred to Fairbanks as a Zone leader and a brand new missionary, Elder Page, from Centerville has taken his place here with the Hmongs. The Hmong Branch meet in our building for Sacrament Meeting and then join us for Priesthood, Relief Society, and Sunday School.

Go to this site to see the article and click on the links below Elder Bennion’s picture to see an interactive slideshow and to learn about the Hmong People. One link even takes you to What a missionary tool! I wanted to send this last week but since we were going into transfer week I didn’t get it sent. Tonight we attended a baptism in the Hmong branch of a father and his 8 children. What an outstanding experience to see a young elder who has only been in the branch 3 transfers, 18 weeks, speak and translate himself and do half the baptisms. Elder Page did his first baptism tonight and he was so cute. He spoke mostly in English and the Tom Lee mentioned in the article translated for him when he needed it. But you have to understand that Elder Page has only been here for 6 weeks and these elders get no training in the MTC before they come. He spoke after the baptism and started his talk by telling us he was having problems and that he left his dry underwear home. Tom Lee will probably be a general authority some day he was so impressive when he conducted the meeting and spoke.

In the same newspaper there is a couple of pages talking about the parks in Utah and then a picture of the temple in Salt Lake. The title of the article is “Utah’s Top Jaw-dropper sits right downtown” then they go on to tell our history etc. etc. They said that as many people go to temple square as all 5 of the national parks combined. What a missionary tool!

Last Sunday we attended church in the Girdwood branch. There are only about 5-6 families that attend here and their Branch President is a man with a full beard and a pony tail down below his waist. It was held in a Catholic Church with the signage in front of the chapel as shown in the picture.

Have you ever had a cross on your chapel? It was just dedicated by the Catholic priest a month ago and he said it was the only sign like that he knows about. The community of Girdwood is a small tourist town 40 miles south of Anchorage. Alyeska, Alaska’s famous ski resort is here. It is hard to believe that you can have a ski resort at sea level with 7 feet of snow most winters but it is, after all right on Turnagain Arm Inlet.

Today, Saturday October 21, we spent all day in the temple with another two families that we did Family History packets for right after their baptisms. I was the escort for Anne Marlin who has embraced the gospel 100 percent. She said when she was baptized that it was just like the church was made for her. The Philippian sister is 35 years old and her husband is 82. Their two boys are 9 and 8 years old and the cutest things. What a wonderful emotional day!

On a holiday note! Buy the stamps with the snowflakes for your holiday letters. The snowflake in the upper right hand corner is from Fairbanks. Posted by Picasa

Monday, September 25, 2006

Huge Things!

Weather Report
High 54 Low 40Sunrise 7:47 a.m. Sunset 7:53 p.m. = 12 hours & 6 min. Daylight.

We will be going off Daylight savings next week and then I will lose my time to go walking. What will I ever do for exercise in this big city and with an office job – woe is me!

The biggest huge thing in Alaska, Denali,! We were able to go to Denali with the bishop from Fairbanks. He had put our name in the lottery and we won. During the season you can only get in by bus but after the season they allow 400 cars a day to drive in all the way on 4 different days. Almost 6,000 people apply so we were very lucky. And the day was the most beautiful! They say you only see Denali (Mt. McKinley to the lower 48) from top to bottom 10 days out of the year and the day we went was one of those days. It was a fantastic day where we not only saw the mountain but we saw an unbelievable 13 bear and 10 wolves right by the road.

We saw the "three bears", actually mamma and her two babies. One of the baby bear stood up on her hind legs and the three of them crossed the road between all the cars who had stopped to see them. When in a bus all summer you can’t get out of the bus to even take a picture but when you drive in you are allowed to get out of the car. If the animals get within 50 yards you have to get back into your car. So the wild animals never see people. They are used to vehicles traveling on the roads but really never see people.

This wolf was feeling pretty good as he stretched for us. We saw three bear eating a downed caribou and all 10 of the wolves had just finished a caribou and were stretched out in the sun. It was so funny to see. I want to tell you more of the wonderful day but won’t so just know it was a once in a life time opportunity that we are so thankful to have had. Posted by Picasa

The greatest huge thing was the spiritual experience we had two weekends ago at the temple with brand new members of the church from Fairbanks. These were all people that we helped do packets. To see Br. Rodriguez sobbing as he was baptized for a father and grandfather was more than we could take because after doing the research for his family we felt like we knew them. He will be eligible to go to the temple for his endowments in October. He and his wife are talking about waiting until their wedding anniversary in January. Br. Rodriguez says he just can’t wait that long.

Sister Davidson called us and asked us to attend the sealing session where she was sealing 30 people in her family. When we got there she asked us to be proxy for her parents while she was sealed to them. What an unspeakable honor! I have always wanted to have a “real spiritual” experience in the temple and we had one that day. When one grandmother was being sealed to her husband the sealer stopped and asked, “Who said yes?” The proxy answered that she had. “No, the sealer said, “I heard two people answer.” Then he looked at each one of us and asked again, “Who said yes?” None of us heard two yes’s. Afterwards I asked Sister Davidson if that was her grandmother who answered. She said she knew that it was. This family history is so wonderful and such a blessing in our lives.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Keep The Squash Coming

Weather Report
High 58 Low 46
Sunrise 7:13 a.m. Sunset 8:38 p.m. = 13 hours & 25 min. Daylight. We are losing daylight way too fast. But fall is coming fast.

August 15th we looked out our window and saw "termination dust" in the mountain tops. This is snow that signifies the termination of summer. The mountains are full of yellow and orange. We don't have but a very little bit of red, maple, color. But it is so beautiful! Burt and I went for a walk up Eagle River and if he gets the pictures off his camera and on to my computer. We walked right by a moose who was standing along the path. It was scary but he didn't seem to care that we were on his path. We got a picture of the lady walking towards us so you would see how close we were.

Life was hectic enough at the mission office as we were learning just how to do our job. But then the President asked us if we would be in charge of a booth at the fair. Our theme was, "Families Are Forever". And our sign said, "Free Information on Family History". It turned out to be a rather big job on top of learning the office but was a lot of fun. Me coming to Alaska and doing a fair - can you believe it! It was a resounding success as the numbers rolled in about referrals, family history packets requested, and lessons taught by the missionaries. I got a call just yesterday from someone who had stopped by the tent and wanted to know more about doing genealogy. We got to know the missionaries working in the Wasilla Zone and the ward members very well. But just when we should have some peace and maybe a minute to our selves the other office couple had to go home so Sister Casper could have surgery. "No rest for the wicked" holds true still. And as one of the Tongan Elders loves to say, "But the church is still true!" Tomorrow will be our first day in the office alone and doing the work of 4 people so you won't hear from us for another month.

And hopefully, I am still a missionary.
Thanks for keeping in touch, I love and miss you all, Lenore

A p.s. for my true friends who will still love me even if I get in trouble. We are getting to know so many more missionaries and it is so fun to see all the little new missionaries come. My biggest problem is I can't stay out of trouble because we have mission rules that says we can't hug the elders. Can you imagine that? Can you imagine that I can love these cute kids so much and not give them a hug with lots of tears when they leave for home. Well, you are right, I can't!! I was afraid I was getting sent home this past week. I have come to the conclusion that the only way I can stay out of trouble is to not go to the "out" meeting. We will see, I have 5 more weeks to get stronger and more righteous!

Hey, kids, here is my letter to everyone but I wanted to tell you that we had a Bethel reunion on Saturday. Actually Dianne and Bob Graham had their 40th wedding anniversary and invited all the people they knew from Homer to Anchorage to a dinner at a restaurant on the golf course, called "O'Malley on the Green". It was so fun to see people that even remembered me. An Eskimo lady Elsa Mather, just gave me a big hug when I introduced myself and said, "Lenore, I bought a sewing machine from you and I still use it!" She then proceeded to tell me everything she had made that she learned how to do in my sewing class. Her husband was Jim Mather, a Gussic who taught in the High School so I don't know if you would remember them or not. Bob's sister, Colleen was there and didn't look more than a week older than she did in Bethel.

We received the strangest but most welcome gift we have ever gotten. It came from Logan and was a spaghetti squash. We were so excited and ate half of it tonight for supper and laughed at how expensive it was, almost the same price as if we had bought it here in the Farmers Market, and loved every mouthful of it. Thanks you wonderful people from Logan. Burt figured it up and even at the price decided it would be cheaper to have you grow our vegetables from now on.
We love you all so much.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Spoiled With A Kitchen

Weather Report
High 62 Low 51 =Very very rainy
Sunrise 6:09 a.m. Sunset 9:56 p.m. = 15 hours 47 min. Daylight

I am sitting here looking out our big window at the most beautiful mountains. The sky, clouds, and mountains are beautiful even when it rains for a week straight with nothing but rain in the forecast for the next 10 days. Fall is here in Alaska and we love it. We have talked and don't know why we miss the winter months because the summer is beautiful. People ask here, "Do you know what the most beautiful day of the year is called?" "No, what?" "Summer!" Or they say "there are two seasons here, winter and a whole day of summer." But the way the clouds, beautiful, white and fluffy, hang all around these magnificent mountains is such a peaceful sight. Maybe we love it because we were in a basement in Fairbanks. I don't know, but we are blessed to have three wonderful, large, windows looking east to the mountains. Our apartment is small and we can only be in the kitchen one at a time but that is better than no kitchen and doing our dishes in the bathroom sink. Boy, are we spoiled!

How do we like our transfer, you ask. Well, we have been here three and a half weeks and have had time to fall in love with the office. We work every minute as fast as we can all day and come home and fall into bed at night but we look forward to every morning and going to work. I couldn't even imagine that I would love an 8-5 job but it is nice to know every day what you are doing. No time for naps, of which we had grown accustomed to in Fairbanks. We see missionaries every day here and some days it is all day long but we missed the wonderful times in district and zone meetings in Fairbanks, being taught by these young magnificent servants of the Lord one minute and teased the next. Did I tell you when we left we found out that the zone leaders had put our picture on the zone board with the caption, "Old People working with Dead People." Gosh, we loved those missionaries. Every time one of them calls in the office they often say, "Hi, Sister Robbins, this is your favorite Elder!" I love it!

We help a lot at the mission home with the dinners and the meetings with the in-coming and the out-going missionaries. This is so fun to see this happen. Now if only I have their tickets right so they get on the right plane tonight at midnight as they go off to see excited families who have waited two years to see them! And do I have all the board cards made just right, in the right area with the right companion for these new excited missionaries who just here from the MTC are ready to convert the world. Tomorrow I will send a letter home to the anxious parents with a picture of the missionary and his/her new companion. Burt has a very boring job, he just keeps track of all the finances for the mission.

Do we love it here, Yes! And we are sorry we drug our feet in coming. Do we miss the Fairbanks people, oh, yes but we had dinner tonight with a couple who come down once a month for four days to work in the temple. Next month we will have three families, new converts bringing the family names we helped them find to the temple and we will get to go with them. What a blessing!

We love and miss you, Lenore and Companion

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

First Transfer Is Official

Some of you may remember that I sent a picture two weeks after we got here at the time and temperature sign. It was -40 at 1:30 in the afternoon. Two days ago we reached our highest temperature of +82 degrees just two weeks before we leave. This was a difference of 122 degrees in just 5 months. The coldest picture was taken at 1:30 in the afternoon with just enough sun to take it. The hottest day was taken at 9:30 at night at a different sign and even then we had to wait a few minutes so the sun would be behind the sign so their wouldn't be so much glare on the camera. What a funny country to live in. It snowed in Barrow, just North of us, on our hottest day here. I included the picture of the two of us just so you wouldn't forget what we look like.

Weather report
High + 82 Low + 56
Daylight: Sunrise 3:47 Sunset 12:09
For a total this week of 20 hours and 25 minutes of sunlight.

We have lost over an hour already and it is hard to believe that we are going down hill so fast. But I tell you things are growing fast around here! Flowers and trees love this 20 plus hours of daylight.

The good news here is that things are great! The bad news is that we got our dreaded call from Pres. Lewis and are being transferred. The really bad news is that we are going to Anchorage, the really, really bad news is that we will be in the Mission Office. But the best news of all is that we are willing to do what the Lord wants us to do, well one of us is dragging the other one. Our new mission financial clerk just doesn't want to trade Northern Lights and Beautiful Sights for Rush Hour Traffic and Office Hours.

With a transfer date of July 24 we will be thinking of the Pioneers as we wend our way South. We won't be pulling a handcart but you should see the little car we have to put ALL our "stuff" into. The Jr. Missionaries are required to keep their "stuff" to their 3 suitcases but our two computers, two printers, winter coats, kitchen supplies, old people pills and 4 winter tires - just don't fit.

We spoke in the Delta Junction Branch last Sunday and will be speaking in the Salcha Branch on the 23rd. These little branches just capture our hearts and we love them! We have family history packets to finish up, people to say good-by to, choices to make about what we really can do without, and Time is going way so fast!!

We still have time to think of you often, miss you a lot, and wonder what you are doing. Thanks for keeping in touch. I will let you know how we are managing when we get settled in down South.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

We Are As The Army of Heleman

The following is a note that Lara sent, actually it was in her blog. I didn't get your permission to send it on, Lara, because it was in your blog for the world to see.

"I have to tell you though, about the missionaries in Sacrament Meeting.
After one of them spoke, they both stood up together to sing a song. I started bawling before the piano even started! They looked so handsome standing up there preaching the gospel, I just wanted to pinch their cheeks and take them home with me. I can do that now. Cheek pinching totally belongs to old women who cry in Sacrament meetings. Call me Ma'am in public though and I'll pinch your head off. Anyway...once they started the song there was no end to the tears. They sang "We'll Bring the World His Truth" (We are as the armies of Helaman). It was the most beautiful thing I have ever heard. I didn't look around but I'm pretty sure I was the only sniffler in the whole room. What is my problem!

I think that is my new favorite song. As we walked by the temple after General Conference last April, a group of Elders were lining the sidewalk singing that song as we passed down the middle. I have never felt the spirit so strongly. I didn't want to leave but the crowd pushed us on.

We are as the army of Helaman.
We have been taught in our youth.
And we will be the Lord's missionaries
to bring the world His truth.

I can't wait till Grey is old enough to be a missionary. By the way, does anyone out there want to hear the gospel? I need to do my part here to bring the world His truth. If you ever get any missionaries at your door, just let them in would you? How could you not? They are so adorable!'

Now this is from Mom, I couldn't help responding because:

Loved your note about the adorable missionaries,. It made me cry to read it. You have to know that is why we love our mission so. We have that experience every day. The church is having the missionaries sing now and it really invites the spirit. We had a zone meeting the other day and Elder Halverson, of the 70's was here. He had a couple of missionaries get up and give the second lesson and Burt and I were the investigators. I am known among the missionaries as a "tough" investigator because I don't just sit and say yes to everything they say. When these Elders got half way trough their discussion they stopped and sang "Oh, how lovely was the morning." I couldn't stand it, the tears welled higher and higher. I couldn't, even in jest, be difficult, the spirit was so strong. Elder Halverson said, "Yes, Sister Robbins we saw you slowly melting." To see the elders so clean, handsome and boldly bearing their testimonies just touches me so much. We come to the library every day and see the "creeps" that hang out here and I am so thankful for the gospel and that our boys, 60,000 plus, are out teaching about obedience, honesty, faithfulness. Just last week we heard them teach us about obedience. Today the President's Assistance's taught us about our attitude and the effect it has on the people we teach, what a lesson!. I look at them and say, "This is a 19-20 year old BOY teaching me about obedience!" What a program is this missionary program! Yes, I see our little grandchildren in their position in just a few short years and am so thankful.

Last week when we were talking about obedience one little elder who was teaching said he had a companion who wouldn't work and he said he didn't either. Then he came to Fairbanks and had Elder Jepsen, who we consider the "most obedient" elder in the mission, as his companion. He bore his testimony on how much more successful they were than in any other district that he had served in. Then he said, "I am so happy that I can now be the missionary that my mother thinks I am." Wow, I just can't get that out of my mind. Thank Heavens for good missionaries and good mothers home supporting them. Can't wait until all of our grandson's and their mom's get to this point.

By the way, you can invite the missionaries over for dinner and when they leave they will leave a spiritual thought and/or a song. It is very touching and would be good for the kids to see.
I love the gospel so much and am so thankful for this mission experience.

I love you all so very much, thank you for your support with your letters, email, pictures, and phone calls.