Monday, December 28, 2015

Our after Christmas Blog 
It has been such a busy week it seems much longer then seven days since last Sunday. You heard in that blog that Sophia was asked to give her testimony in Spanish. And she did. This is in the little branch of Nerja that is just one hour to the north of us. We will be attending Church services there each Sunday.

Monday was a work day and trying to learn our expanding duties and responsibilities. That evening we were able to go shopping for the first time. Fortunately there is a nice market just a block off our path as we travel, walk, to and from the office. How much you buy when you know you have to carry it home six blocks is much different  then when you are going to put it in your car and drive. 

Small park  to the southwest of our apartment
Tuesday morning we left before seven a.m. We drove to Malaga to pick up another North American couple, elder and sister Frost. She is a physician assistant and cares for all missionary illnesses both here and in Madrid. We again drove across Andalucia to the city of Sevilla, 5 1/2 hours west, where half of the missionaries had gathered for a Christmas conference.

The first hour was Sharing of individual talents -singing, Piano playing, and some fun skits. During the second hour we walked over to a very large shopping center and sang religious Christmas carols to the shoppers. It was wonderfully fun and joyful to be part of an unpracticed choir of Over 100 voices. The mall security guard Took pictures as well as did several Shoppers. When we finished one woman near me asked if we were going to sing elsewhere and could she come and listen again. We returned to the church that was about a 15 minute walk where we had a Christmas based short program. It was at this time that both Sophia and I were asked to give our testimonies. Of course all of this was done in Spanish.

We left at 5 o'clock p.m. And drove the six hours across the country of Spain to the city Murcia. The other half of the missionaries had gathered here for a second conference. It also begin at 11on Wednesday with the talent show and then off to sing in the city Plaza. This time we had  missionaries who played the violin the flute and viola to accompany us. The weather was ideal cool but enjoyable and the number of people who stopped and listen was surprising. Again we returned for the more serious meeting, but this time Sophia was not surprised and did a good job.

About 5:30 we left for the 4+ hour Drive back to Malaga and home. The excitement did not end. As we got to Malaga to drop off the Frosts two of the main roads to get to their house had been closed. They do not have a car and we spent an hour driving around and around trying to get into their area of the city. At one point the GPS had us do two identical loops before it could figure out where we were. If we hadn't been so tired it would have been very comical. Fortunately we were all in good moods and said we will remember this is part of the trip for a long time. We arrived home at midnight.

A street near ours
On the 24th we were again in the office trying to learn all our many tasks. We had invited the three Office missionaries and the two missionaries who work in the city to come for breakfast at our home on Christmas morning. I have neglected to tell you that our mission presidents wife was not here when we arrived. She had returned Home to Idaho for their youngest son's wedding. She returned on the 23rd. On the morning of the 25th the president phoned and invited us to his home for breakfast. We explained we had the elders coming and learned that he had just sent them in invite to his home. Rather than have a conflict or a double booking we all took our planned breakfast to his home and he shared what he had planned and we added ours to theirs.

What a wonderful time we had together. We played a white elephant gift exchange, sang some lovely hymns and shared various Christmas experiences that each of us felt. As we left we were much fuller than the quantity of food than we had eaten. And we had eaten very well (pancakes, BlackBerry jam, dulce de leche with bananas, papaya, Oranges, Tangerines, Bacon, Eggs, Muffins, and three different juices, two french hens, and a partridge in a pear tree). In the afternoon and evening Sophia and I went for a walk and enjoyed the Christmas decorations and historical parts of the city.

 Trying to keep track of apartments, Reimbursements, illnesses: in general activities of 200 Young missionaries is a much larger issue than I had understood. On Saturday we again went into the office early to be able to get all the year-end books finished. I don't know if we'll get it all done but we're doing our best. We finally left the office at7pm. and  Saturday night we both worked on the talks we would be giving in our branch. We had been each asked to give a 10 minute Christmas -based talk.

This morning, Sunday, we left before nine in order to get there on time. Sophia's talk use the song “let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me”. She did a very good job. She wrote out her talk first in English had it translated by using Google and then read it to the congregation. We both took about 10 minutes. I was then surprised to learn that for the third week the Sunday school teacher for the adult class had not arrived. So I was volunteered to teach the Sunday school lesson. We talked about goals for the coming year and how to use the words of Christ to both change and to help us reach those goals.
Do you notice how clean the streets are?

There where only 22 members in attendance today. But we were able to me each one and hopefully remember their names. By being able to teach the Sunday school class I was able to get to know them better then if I had just been part of the class.

We arrived home at 4 o'clock and again slept for two hours. It is amazing how deep of sleep you can be in. At that time. We're looking forward to the new year we hope you are. Know that you are in our prayers and in our thoughts frequently. The small adult Sunday school class reminded me exactly of the Sunday school class at FOY where we spend our winters.

Happy new year and hugs all around!!! Elder and sister Hopkins

Monday, December 21, 2015

FULL CORRECTION TO BLOG #3 I have been told that once I have posted a blog I cannot undo it. What I am posting here is an edited, meaning easier to read, Version of what is called blog number three and blog 3B. So if you logon to read this blog before you have read the next blog you will not need to read the next one. But you're certainly welcome to read both.

We are here. We have made it to Spain. The countryside, which we have barely seen, is very much like Santa Barbara California. Now a quick review of why we haven't seen much of the countryside after five days. For those of you who know us well, know we should have been out walking and exploring and seeing what's around us. We have done none of that. But let me try to give a quick recap.

I tried to give a review of our two weeks in Provo at the M T C or missionary training Center but it is still in the draft stage and I don't know when I will get to finish it. I do not have the words to describe the spiritual enthusiasm that overflows on that campus. We entered with a group of 143 senior missionaries, 70 of which were senior couples and three Single sisters. While we were there there were over 1600 total missionaries. Seniors arrive on Mondays while young missionaries arrive on Wednesdays. Missionaries are leaving almost continually. Some senior couples were only there four days. We were there exactly 2 weeks the longest period for any of the couples that arrived in our group. Young missionaries may be there three weeks or up to it as long as 12 weeks if the language they are learning Is more difficult..

We were not prepared for the spiritual depth, breadth and height that we found. The first week was used to acquaint us with the missionary reference book “Preach My Gospel". The second week we were instructed in both specific detail and yet in a generic manner of our duties when we reached our different missions. I should have guessed that I would be called as mission Financial secretary, which I have been, but I was not told before arriving here in Spain. Missionary couples have such a wide variety of the things they do, even in the office, where we are assigned, that we tried to attend and listen to several responsibilities that we might receive. There was a lot to learn and the environment was wonderful.

On Monday, 14 December in a heavy snowstorm we were transported, Sophia and I, to the Salt Lake airport. After boarding the plane late, probably 20 to 30 minutes, we went to be deiced. There was probably close to 6 inches of snow at the airport and 2 to 3 inches on the wings. Deicing Took over an hour. We never made up that lost time and arrived in Paris in hour And a half late. The Paris airport is huge we only had to travel a crossed perhaps a fourth of it to get to our departing flight. We scurried as fast as we could but we had to be sure that in the passport review Area each of our passports was stamped with an entry into Europe. As we got into that line only two baggage inspection lanes were open and only three passport review kiosks were manned. The line wound down and back in front of the probably 20 unmanned kiosks. From one end of the line to where it did a U-turn was from 50 to 100 feet and there were at least for U-turns in the line as it wound down and back. We so wanted to catch our departing flight but it was not to be. Emotionally the line  seemed to go on forever.

To help my emotional State my carry-on bag was one of those selected to be carefully inspected and reviewed. From my CPAP Machine to the small hand weights that I was caring for Sophia the inspector both passed her wand and checked each item carefully. She was pleasant but she only spoke French and wanted to be sure that each item was what it should be and that I wasn't a terrorist.

We again rushed the next half mile with carry on luggage in hand and made it to see the plane being pushed away from the walkways and there was no way for us to get on. I would have preferred our connecting flight leaving early than to miss it by just a few minutes. It was just another frustration in our almost catching the flight.Our instructions told us that we  needed to first Book our next flight and then to contact both our mission president and a travel dispatcher in Salt Lake City. Numerous flights had arrived late and the line in front of the KLM and Air France customer service Took over an hour. Actually it's not that the line was so long but how methodically and slowly the 6 clerks behind the line attended to each person. Some people we're loud and irate but the clerks stayed at their prescribed speed. They were trying to be of help but there was a lot of frustration. An Italian gentleman,  I use that that term very loosely (and not about his country of origin), was humorous and very emotional. There was a Brazilian who was equally funny and sad to watch. One Muslim family, all adults, Took at least an hour.One woman who had entered Paris on our flight was so totally annoyed at Delta with causing her to miss her next flight. And this because of the deicing. I would just rather arrive safely and have the plane deiced correctly than to take off early have ice form on the wings not arrive at all or to be forced down at some other airport for a late deicing which would have taken so much longer.

Once we had a flight booked to Malaga, it would leave from Paris at 8:40, which was six hours later, that night we try to follow the next two steps of our instructions. In trying to use the Paris telephones, we did not have our cell phones since we turned them off before we left Salt Lake, I did not have a phone card. Nor did I have any euros but I did have plenty of dollars. It was kindly explained to me that the foreign exchange areas were beyond the area that we we're in and that I should have Exchanged my money before trying to catch the next flight. This  meant I could not go to exchange my dollars nor to buy a phone card. When I tried to use my credit card to buy euros from a machine I was told that my password was incorrect. Paris public phones did not have the alphabet below each member and  I had to remember each passwords numeric equivalent. Next unreal problem was I was told my credit card did not have sufficient capacity for the phone call, my credit card limit is over $10,000 and I knew the total charges on it at that point we're less than 1000. How could I be turned down unless Paris phone calls are a lot more expensive that I realized.

I could not phone, so  then i remembered email. It would not be as fast but it still would advise both the mission president and Church travel that we would not be arriving on scheduled. We were not functioning nor thinking well. We had been on an 11 hour flight that had begun at 5:30 in the afternoon, we had an eight hour time change. We had the stress of racing across Paris airport with carry-on luggage, then my carry-on bag inspection and as I pull out the apple computer it is discharged. Of course the Paris airport has plugs, European plugs not American and as voltage it's 220 not 110. My iPad still worked and had a charge. I had never sent an email from my iPad but apparently it works as I got two emails sent and Pres. Anderson later told us he had received my email after not finding us at the airport. We would be arriving into Malaga Spain at 11:00 PM. A long day but still not over.

We boarded our next flight and had a very stressed out Seat companion. With jet lag on us not eating dinner nor lunch we may not have been the best of Seat companions ourselves but she was unique.

Arriving in Malaga what more could go wrong? How about our four  50 pound suitcases not coming off of the conveyor belt. We waited, we waited and we waited. Everyone else from our flight had picked up their bags and left. Ours were not. But a ray of light, looking through the glass wall we saw our mission president waiting for us, it's 11 o’clock Plus at night. We waved to him  through the glass,  At least we have a ride two somewhere. Back to the suitcases fortunately air Europe, the airline that brought us to Malaga did have an attendant still at his window.  our bags were being held by customs. I don't know if that is because our bags had flown in on the earlier flight or if for some other reason customs needed to inspect our arriving baggage. Customs is behind a one-way door, Actually a double door you go through one, then you're  screened before you can go into the next area. There's a conveyor belts and it's very similar to the baggage pickup area but to get out there is a x-ray screening area and customs officers to inspect your bags. All four bags are waiting there for us.  As We approach customs  the customs officers leave. It was approaching midnight and the three of them just left the area, what do we do? Fortunately a few minutes later a new Group came out, asked where we were from and said go on a out. No inspection required.

We gladly did so. We are  in Spain and we have transportation and the mission president  is excited to see us. We learn from him that he had a very similar travel experience back in June their airplane also had arrived late into Paris, They had missed the connection, but as they arrived in Malaga their bags did not and still have not been found. 

When our mission president saw through the glass our lack of luggage he was afraid a similar misfortune was occurring with us. Fortunately we found our bags. Further he had neglected to have his passport stamped in Paris. As he tried to apply for his Spanish residency they could not document his arrival and therefore he was considered an illegal immigrant. So both he and his wife were flown to England so they've might reenter Spain legally.

The next morning we went to the mission office and met the staff and the departing senior couple we would be replacing and several missionaries who are in from various parts of Spain. Honestly Wednesday was a bit of a blur. Thursday was much better, we exchanged houses with the Coombs who are returning to the US. Their apartment is very pleasant, they left it very clean and they left us with some foods. Friday we were again trying to learn our positions and responsibilities in the office. 

Friday night was a ward Christmas party and it is in the ward that the mission office belongs to. We were invited so of course we attended. The party was to begin at eight and by 915 it finally started. They had a small drama, several musical numbers, and a sitdown dinner that began with four different plates of appetizer. This was followed by two plates of salads for the entire table.  we used toothpicks or our fork to eat from the common salad plate. After that came a plate with Rice chicken and a vegetable. At 10:30 desserts still hadn't been served and we were too tired so we left. I forgot to mention that to get to the ward building we had two elders Guide us as we drove. They usually walked and therefore never noted which were one-way or dead-end streets for cars. Although the building was only perhaps 2 miles from the mission office it took us close to an hour to get there.  This was my first time driving and I'm grateful I didn't get lost.

Saturday morning we left early with the mission president and went to the Granada to pick up a sister missionary and then over to Sevilla to pick up another.  At Sevilla the ward was having a late Christmas Saturday luncheon and we arrived to enjoy that. Then we left with the two sisters and drove to Cadiz. Cadiz is on the Atlantic side of the rock of Gibraltar. The Ward was having the baptism of a full family that the two sisters that we had brought down had first contacted and taught. The baptism ended at at about 830 at night. Then I drove the vehicle back to Sevilla dropped off one sister and back to Malaga.  It was too late to return the Second sister back to her home so she came to our apartment and spent the night. We arrived home at 1:30 in the morning.

I neglected to tell you the Pres. Anderson determined that we should be assigned to a small branch about an hour and a half to the north of Malaga. We will attend the branch each Sunday and then one afternoon during the week Will drive up to assist the branch president in whatever he would like us to do. But our principle duties Will continue to be in the mission office. So Sunday morning we rose early to arrive at our assignment. Unfortunately our  car is without a GPS. And to find  the little branch of Nerja it took heavenly intervention on at least three occasions.  It is a tourist town right on the Mediterranean sea.  we arrived just as the meeting was to begin. But what a surprise. There was wall-to-wall people. There were people from Germany, Australia, norway, and England. The family from Norway were in their 60’s and had their three adult children with them. There was a visitor from the stake and then the three of us (the young missionary sister was to be with us until the afternoon).

After dropping off the sister missionary at 3 o'clock we arrived home close to four. For those of you who know Sophia pretty well she was so tired that I offered either going down to the beach and walking along the Mediterranean or taking a nap and she  chose taking the nap.

It has been a wonderful and full week. Next week we are again traveling to the two extremes of the mission for zone conferences. We will be gone two full days and will have to make up the work when we get back. It is thrilling to be here and to be trying to do the good that He wants. We love you all. Ciao Joe and Sophia
P. s. I will try to include some pictures this week.

After I posted blog three, please realize I did not have the time to completely edit it. So if you read it shortly after I posted it I apologize for the computers mistakes. I use apples Voice recognition program to type the blog. But it is not a perfect rendition of what I've wanted to say.

Blog three does recount the events that happened to us, but it does not communicate the wonderful spiritual experiences that we are feeling. As we sat in sacrament meeting in the Little branch of Nerja both hermana Hopkins, that is how I refer to Sophia here in the mission field, and I Felt  the quiet peace that this is where we should be. It is a quietness that distilled or encircled or enveloped us even with the crying children and the noise from the moving chairs. It wasn't that we were at home, but that this is where we should be. I wish I could more accurately put into words that peaceful feeling.

Since we aren't being assigned permanently does this little branch the branch president ask each of us to bear our testimonies. I believe Sophia was quite fearful but she did a wonderful job. Of course she bore it in Spanish. Very well done hermana Hopkins

For those of you who are aware of hermana Hopkins’s stomach/ intestinal cramps, although our schedule has been a wild, we've had much less sleep that normal our lovely apartment is still full of suitcases and things that need to be put away and we seldom have good meals. She has not had one intestinal issue since we have been here. What a sweet kind bless from a loving  father.

At the baptism we attended on Saturday in Cadiz both of the preteen daughters we're baptized first. Then the mother and finally the father. He is a Spaniard and has had a very hard Life. His wife stood on the top of the stairs entering the baptismal font to watch her husband's baptism. She was dripping wet yet there was a Joy in her face I cannot accurately describe.  She watched almost with an awe as his ordinance was performed. Her countenance had a glow. He climbed the stairs and they hugged with such a sweetness and  hope for the future. What a wonderful gift to receive from the Son of God now at this Christmas season.

We desire to very joyful christmas for each of you.  We are busy and happy trying to serve him who gave us this season to rejoice.  Elder and Sister Hopkins

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Although I had stated that both  of our talks would be here only mine is currently posted.  As soon as Sophia is able to finish her review hers will  posted.  We are leaving on Dec 14 for Paris and then on to Malaga.  We are currently packing to make sure we make our weight limits.

11/22/2015 Joe Hopkins farewell talk in Fruitland 4th Ward Sacrament Meeting
Good morning!  Primary children would you show me by raising your hands how many of you participated two weeks ago in the Primary presentation? You did a wonderful job in what you said and what you sang about. I’m so glad to see so many of you here today.  Do you remember the wonderful words you said? I hope you believe what you shared in that program.  I am going to speak about many of the things that you said during your program.

When I was your age we were not members of the church.  We were members of the Catholic Church.  As members of that church children were not taught to pray.  I was given simple prayers to memorize and I repeated those as my daily prayers.  When I was 5 or 6 my mother had the courage to teach me how to pray using my own words.   That was really a courageous thing to do since praying with your own words was unheard of in the Catholic Church.  And so, I learned from her how to pray.  She told me that God listened and that he would help me in the things I needed. I believed her.  I clearly remember kneeling with her beside my cot in my bedroom, it was also the small laundry room of our home, and asking God for the things that I, as a small child needed.

When I was growing up I was small and very sickly, (you may not believe it because of my current size and health, but it is true).  I didn’t learn to speak until I was in the first grade.  I developed my own vocabulary that only I, my parents, and my sister could understand. Before I was seven years old, it seemed every time my parents were talking with other adults my size, my health and my pallid skin we're discussed. I would hear, “What’s wrong with Joe, he’s so pale, he’s so tiny.”

 This bothered me as a little child.  Soon after my mother had taught me to pray a sweet family friend whom we hadn’t seen for several months commented, ”Joe has such pretty teeth, they are just lovely.”  

How I wanted to protect that one lovely part of my body, my teeth.  So I started praying for pretty teeth. Would God please protect them through the night and through tomorrow?   I became afraid that I might forget to pray for healthy teeth one night and during that day without prayer protection they could be damaged.  So I enlarged my prayers to include not the next day alone but also would He please protect my teeth for the next two days. And it went on, and on -  

 Do you know, He answered that prayer.  I remember on more than one occasion going into a grocery store or other public place with my mother and people we didn’t know would say, “Your child has such pretty teeth” or “what a lovely smile your son has.”  I knew that God had answered my prayer. He had heard me. He knew me. And He had given me beautiful teeth.
 A few years later the Mormon missionaries came into our home, I was about 11, and they presented the Joseph Smith story.  I knew that Joseph Smith could have gotten an answer from God. God had answered my prayer.  If he, Joseph Smith, wanted to know about religion; God could have answered his prayer even as He had answered mine.  I accepted that story very easily and we were soon baptised into the Mormon Church.  It’s a lot more complex than that, if sometime when there is more time I would love to share our conversion story.  Elder Spencer Kimball was directly involved with our family for about 3 years to finally get us all converted.

As a teenager in high school I started attending early morning seminary.  We had a marvellous seminary teacher. Unfortunately in high school, like many of you teenagers, I had to follow a sister who was the academic pet of the high school.  Everybody knew her, especially the teachers and they would say, “Oh, you’re Jeannie Hopkins brother, you’ll be a top student,” and I wasn’t.  I wasn’t a bad student, but I was not a straight A student.

At the beginning of my sophomore year I decided I would be a better student, even a straight “A” student if I could be.  In seminary that year we were studying the Book of Mormon. About December our seminary teacher told us of fasting and of the power and strength it gave to the sons of Mosiah as they were preaching to the Lamanites. If this was a true concept, and I believed it was, then it would work for me.

As finals week approached in January I decided to take my desire for straight A's to God. At that time I had eight subjects (including PE). Each subject had a 2 1/2 hour final and there were two finals per day. On my own I decided that I would fast the entire week of finals. Today such prolonged fasts are discouraged, back then if it was discouraged I never heard about it. My fast was a complete fast without food or water. I realized that my full effort was required if I expected Gods help. I organized my notes; re read all the materials and did all I could for each test.  I started my fast on Sunday night. We lived on a farm and I still had my chores of milking the cows morning and night, we had three milk cows.  But every moment that I was free I was studying. Monday was easy, Tuesday was harder but I still made every effort to be prepared in every way for the tests, Wednesday was very hard and I became increasingly tired. So my actual study time was significantly reduced by my increased need for sleep. All my free time when I could stay awake, I was reviewing my notes reviewing the textbooks and preparing myself as best I knew how. I really don't remember what exams I had on Thursday but I made it through it and was grateful to end the fast. I had done all I could to reach my goal and now I left it with God for the results. Because I'm standing here today you should know that I did receive straight A's that semester. It was the only semester in high school that I did.  But I learned that when God gives a principal it applies to each and all of us if we have the faith to use it.
I served a mission in the north Argentine mission from 1965 to 1968. I returned to BYU after my mission and studied economics. After graduating from BYU I married my wife in August and began working at Bank of America in the same month. Prior to our marriage my wife had a Ford Fairlane and I had a small VW. We didn't need both cars and so we sold her car to a Mexican farm labourer who was a member the church and was here in the country illegally. He didn't have all the money so he gave us a small down payment with the promise to pay the rest in monthly payments. Three weeks after taking possession of the car and without making further payments both he and the car disappeared. We were told he and the car we’re somewhere in Idaho.

We were like many newlyweds and we were busy and active and I was sure I would be able to pay our tithing at the end of the year.    The first of December came and with tithing settlement we learned we didn’t have enough money to pay our tithing on our bills.  We were about $300 short.   My wife and I visited and we decided to pay our tithing. This was the middle of December, which meant that there would be no Christmas.  Actually it was more serious than that. I was paid monthly and would not be receiving another paycheck until December 31. We didn’t have enough money to buy food to take us to the end of the month.  We were just foolish young marrieds but we were smart enough to do what the Lord asked of us. Following our decision, we paid our tithing on the next Sunday. On Wednesday or Thursday I came home from work and in the mail was a check from Idaho from our Mexican friend for the entire amount that he owed us.  This was the full amount we had paid in tithing plus about $50 more. Paying tithing is the best plan for good financial management. I've tried it. I've studied accounting and the Lord brings about His will if we will be faithfulI've learned that I can't afford not to pay tithing.
God promises blessings.  I testify to you he keeps his promise.  He says, “Try me herewith.”  And I have tried Him and it works.  The scriptures have become mine about prayer.  I don’t have to worry about what prophets have said.  I know for myself.  I have received my own testimony of fasting.  I have received my own testimony of tithing. 

I have learned that I love to read the Scriptures. Early in our marriage we started reading the scriptures daily.   We read them to our children.  We never used children books of the scriptures.  We read the actual scriptures to them and our children responded by listening to God’s word and they understood them.   They learned to read from them. When you read the scriptures daily they become real to you.   

Everyone has to find their own way to read the Scriptures, but what I have found that works best for me is to read 4 pages a day.   By reading 4 pages a day, I’m able to get  through the Book of Mormon, the New Testament, the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price every year.  And so setting that standard I have continued to read the scriptures daily.   At one time I went seven years without missing a day of reading the Scriptures. I totally agree with Nephi in what is called the psalm of Nephi found in 2 Nephi 4:15   “For my soul delighteth in the scriptures, and my heart pondereth them…” I have learned that they teach truths.  I rejoice that I have read the Book of Mormon more times than my age and I am almost seventy.   

By reading the scriptures daily they have become mine.   One of the wonderful things I have learned about the scriptures is that the prophets are passing on hints about what they used to make it through this life. Hints on things that we can use or ways that we can pray to make it through our problems.

Returning to the Psalm of Nephi, have you ever considered why Nephi asked to shake at the appearance  sin?  In verse 31 Nephi states “Will thou make me that I may shake at the appearance of  sin.”  I've thought about that verse. Wouldn't be helpful for us to know before hand if something was wrong? So from time to time I asked in prayer if God would help me to shake at the appearance of evil even as Nephi asked.  Specifically, I began including in my prayers if God would God help me to understand when evil was present before me, and that I might shake at the appearance of sin.   I was living in Venezuela, my wife had returned home to the states for our annual visit.  While she was away there was an after hour activity of my office to attend. As I was driving to the activity all of a sudden my body started shaking.  It began in my torso and then my legs, my hands and my arms were shaking.   I pulled over to the side of the road and realised I should not go to that activity.  I turned around and started for home and the shaking stopped. I no longer need Nephi’s assurance that God protected him by having him shake at the presence of evil.  I knew and know  God answered my request exactly as he had answered Nephi’s.   Therefore If other men of the Scriptures have tried something and it works for them they are trying to share with us that idea to help us overcome the problems we encounter just as God had helped them.
I have continued with that wonderful standard and love reading the scriptures.  But so you know not everything goes as we planned even when we are following all the rules.  I went through a divorce and it was earth shattering, but I never changed my standard.  I then needed God more than ever.  I can tell you that when the scriptures say that you can hear His voice and He will talk to you they are true. I testify that He will answer you if you seek Him out.  You will not be able to dictate when but when you approach him humbly he answers.  On one occasion I was driving to work and He spoke to me and I know His voice. 

Many things happened.  I was then single and living outside Hermiston, Oregon  and I went to the Portland temple.   In the celestial room I met a very tall lovely blond, who now sits to my left; and who is now going to Spain with me as my companion.  What a privilege to meet your wife in the celestial room of the temple.   But again not everything always goes as we planned and in 2007 things had not worked for us and we were at the point of getting a divorce. Even with our auspicious beginning everything had not worked.  I was still reading the scriptures.  But we were separated, I was living in Southern California and had been for several months.  It had been even more months  since we had  spoken.  I had gotten to the point that I needed to know if our marriage should continue.

One of my heroes is Gideon in the Old Testament.  If you don’t know of Gideon you can read of him in the book of Judges  chapter 2 through  chapter 8.   Gideon was called to be a general for the Lord’s armies and he was just a farmer.   Gideon couldn’t believe it when the angel called him to take charge of Israel’s non-homogenous army.   He thought on it all day and it bothered him and so he prayed, “Lord if this is what you want me to do, I am going to put a sheep skin outside and I want there to be dew all around in the morning, but no dew on the sheepskin” and that happened.  Gideon again thought about it all the next day and still could not believe God’s request.  I can absolutely understand his doubt.  So Gideon doubting the first answer, prayed the next night “Lord I am still not sure what you have asked for, so I want the reverse and I want the sheep skin to be wet with dew tomorrow morning and nothing on the ground.  If you truly want me to command your Army.”  The next morning the sheepskin was soaking wet with dew while the ground was dry. Gideon now knew the answer. How he command the army with such faith was miraculous.  If you don’t know the story please take time to read it several times and learn from him.

With our marriage I was to the same point as was Gideon; I had people telling me that I should allow the divorce to go through.  I could not believe it and I told God I needed an answer. I decided that what I needed was to hear her voice.  We hadn’t spoken in months. I was confident or perhaps so needy that I gave God a deadline.  I  explained that I needed to know or receive  an answer in one week. I began the week fasting.  I attended the Temple. i sought His direction continually in prayer through out the week. On about by Thursday of that week, I still hadn’t heard and I reexplained to God  that if He really need more time, I could extend the deadline a little further.  But I need to hear her voice.   On Saturday evening, it was in January, there was a football game on and I got a phone call.   My cell phone ID said it’s Sophia.  I answered, “Hello I’m so glad you called.” She responded, not with hello, but “I don’t know why I am calling you” - but I did, I knew.  I tried to tell her why I knew over the phone but it did not come out clearly.

I now knew, even as Gideon knew, that our marriage was to go forward. Sophia did not know this nor could she accept my testimony.  Somehow we made it to May without the divorce going through. I was now back living in Boardman, Oregon and she was in Hood River. We had advanced to speaking on the phone perhaps twice a week.  There was still one document yet to be signed in the divorce papers before they would be presented to the judge.  I was attending the temple weekly trying to be in the right place to hear His voice. I believe it was on the second Tuesday of May, I had attended the temple as was normal. For those of you who are unaware I have a heart condition call tacho cardia.  As I was going through the session I a had tacho cardia heart event, which means my heart started going a whole lot faster than it should.   When the officiator came by in the normal course of the session,  I told the officiator that I was having a heart problem but would try to finish the session;  I made it through the session but it was a very emotional session for me and could be its own Sacrament meeting talk.

I got back to Boardman and that night called Sophia, we did talk on the phone once in a while.  I was sharing with her what had happened over the last several days and what had happened that day in the temple; she listened and then went on to other events. Kind of like saying - okay that’s what happened and now what else is new.  Later she told me that she thought I was trying to get her sympathy, I wasn’t I was only sharing with her this significant event.  After a few moments and other comments she said, “Your serious, you really did have a major event at the temple!”  I responded, “Yes.”  She said, “Then let me come out and care for you.” 

And I, in my hard hardheartedness replied, “I don’t need that.  I am taking care of myself just fine” and basically hung up.  If you have ever had the privilege of being chastised by the Lord you will know the next 15 seconds where immensely significant and tense.  I know exactly what people mean when they say their entire life passes through their mind.   Alma the Younger in Alma 36 uses the term  “the gall of bitterness” and the “exquisiteness” of his pain.  In those 15 second, after hanging up, I remembered all the times I had said I had forgiven her, all the times I said I wanted her to be with me and many other specific items.  The spirit told me; “you have not forgiven her at all.  Your hardness, your way of viewing, even your pride is more important than her offer, her generosity. You haven’t forgiven her even after all the times you have said you had.”

The voice was right. If I continued with that hardness I hadn’t forgiven her. Yet I had the audacity to claim I had. I immediately phoned her back  and tried to apologize; to tell her that yes;  I wanted to accept her kind offer.  Long and short she came out and we have been wonderfully - happily married for the years since. 

I hope you have heard that I know:
God answers prayer. 
He is a God of miracles. 
You can make the scriptures your own.  They’re mine - not because James or any other prophet claims your prayers will be answered, not because Malachi speaks of paying your tithing and the windows of heaven  being opened, not because Nephi speaks of shaking at the appearance of evil, and not because in the Doctrine and Covenants it says that the Lord will chastise whom he loves.   I have had my prayers answered, I have had the windows of heaven opened when I paid my tithing, I have had my body shake at the appearance of evil, and I have felt the loving chastisement of a God who loves me.  
Brothers and sisters rejoice in the scriptures.  Rejoice in what God has tried to share with us.  It has been my desire to share with you the testimony that I have that Jesus is the Christ that He is my redeemer and that I love Him.  And I with my wife hope to share this testimony with His children in Spain. In His name, Jesus Christ, I share this testimony with you.  Amen.

Invitation letter to all our friends to come to the blog

To our family members, friends, and associates over the years
This is our First, and perhaps last, memo to you for some time.
You may not have heard from us for a long time,as you may well know we are not active face bookers or emailers nor very great corresponders, but recently we have been very busy preparing to go on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Back in April we were quite sure that we would be going to Africa and specifically to the Cabo Verde Islands as missionaries. But the Lord had another plan for us and so we have been excitingly preparing for a mission to Spain. We will be going to Malaga Spain. There are three missions in Spain one for the north east with the center in Barcelona, there is the Madrid mission in the Center Spain and including the northwest, and there is the Malaga mission which is the Southern part of Spain in an area called Andalucia. Malaga is just 50 miles to the east from the Rock of Gibraltar and is right on the Mediterranean Sea.

Our mission will begin on the 30th of November 2015 and will be for 18 months.  We fly to Salt Lake City and then to Provo Utah where will we will spend two weeks. During this time we will be learning the particulars of what life and activities we will probably be doing in Spain. At this point what we understand is that we will be office specialists assisting the mission president. The mission president is  Pres. Anderson. He and his wife are from Blackfoot Idaho and became mission presidents on July 1 of this year. They will serve for three years.  We had received our call to Malaga prior to their leaving Blackfoot and so we had the opportunity to meet them before they left.  We understand he has about 220 missionaries and two stakes that he is responsible for.

We fly out from Salt Lake on the 14th December directly into Paris France the morning of the 15th. There is a two hours plane exchange and then we fly to Malaga. We will be replacing another senior couple in Malaga and we will be taking over their apartment.  Therefore we have a furnished 4 bedroom apartment waiting for us. It is on the fourth floor overlooking parts of the city. We understand the apartment is approximately 5 blocks from the Mediterranean Sea.We think this is pretty exciting especially since Sophia loves the ocean. The mission office is not in Malaga but it is about 5 miles to the west in a small vacation community called Fuengirola. We are very excited.

We were concerned on what to do with our Idaho home while we were away but the Lord has blessed us in finding a house sitter to take care of the yards. We feel this is an excellent arrangement for us since we don't have to worry about the yards and excellent for her since she won't have to pay rent.

As you can guess we have been busy this summer trying to get the things together to go. Sophia has had to have several medical issues attended to (last year's colon cancer, hernia, left leg circulation, and full hysterectomy). Joe even had to have a molar pulled out. But we believe that this time we are both good to go. Our plan is to have a blog that you our  friends can go to to see what we're doing. This is the only time when we will be sending out this as an email to each of you. The name of the blog is///////. 

For those of you who are not members of the church let me explain our first blog. Just before a missionary leaves his home church, in the Mormon  vernacular his home ward, the missionary is invited to speak at church. Sophia and I had that opportunity on November 22nd. The first blog will be the two talks put into print. We both actively sought to have God's influence in our words and our presentation.  We felt his help in what was delivered that day and therefore would like to share it with you also.

We really have felt spiritually directed and helped to get where we are. We frequently pause to note His hand in the opportunities, choices and selections that are given to us.