Sunday, March 19, 2017

#150 Grandma (By Grandpa)

Dear Grandchildren,

For months I have told Grandma that people here love her dearly. Their admiration and affection for her are deep. Not least among her admirers are the YVs. All love her easy, gentle manner. They love her steadiness. They love her home-made treats. They love her bone-dry honesty. They love her ability to put them at ease. They love her ready laugh. She has been as much a factor in any success that our branch might have enjoyed as anyone else, including the YVs whom she credits with most good things. She will be sorely missed. I promise.

Living in a city brings to view constant contrasts. Not just old and new architecture. Not just the array of prominent business and government buildings. Not in the high rent areas and those that are a bit run down. But in the types of people who make up the city’s population. In our downtown, I see the young professionals walking the streets, wearing suits and nice dresses that bespeak their good-paying jobs. Obviously, they have taken advantage of opportunities offered to them through training and education to begin an upward surge to a better life for them and their families. On the other end, I see poor people who roam the streets hoping to sell little packs of tissues, or who sit on the sidewalk with their shoe polishing boxes, hoping for a willing customer, some days not polishing one pair of shoes. One of these latter has picked me out and approaches me whenever I pass his shoe-polishing apparatus on Sunday mornings. He calls me Baba (Father). He speaks some English and almost always tells me a tale of poverty and woe. No customers today, Baba. No one is coming to Turkey. Troubles in the country. What can I do? What can I do?

This morning I took him a cash gift in a plain envelope. He had already heard from one of the YVs that we are leaving. He said that he was really sad at our departure but hopes that we shall return. He even said that last evening (Saturday) he and his wife were talking about the hot pad holders that Grandma made for them and he mentioned that they came from "the old man" whom he sees on Sundays. Oh well. That’s how people see me anymore.
Who would guess what would happen on our last Sunday? We have enjoyed a run of good numbers at our services. Then ... Three of our sisters were out of town — one was with her son at a youth conference in Ankara (and he is our only deacon), one was visiting family in Europe with her baby, and the other was with her ailing father in eastern Turkey. Those missing sisters cut a big hole in our Relief Society today. In a bigger ward or branch, we might hardly notice. But here we really pay attention. My goodness, do we pay attention.

As things turned out, we hosted 29 persons for our Sacrament Meeting, 16 in the hotel and 13 via Skype. Three other investigators — two men and a woman — showed up in time for Relief Society and Priesthood. Grandma said that the woman, who is married to one of the men who came late, was really hostile when she first arrived but turned very warm by the end of the meeting. The final total? Thirty-two by my count. A happy number for me.

At the end of our meetings, of course, people wanted their pictures taken with Grandma and me as well as the YV who ends his service tomorrow. It is hard to say goodbye. Especially this time. I began by saying goodbye to the young woman who deals with our account at the hotel. She said that the news was the worst she had heard in a long time. That threw me off. She said that she had come to think of us a family. And others did too. We are leaving a piece of our hearts in Izmir.

We sleep in our bed one more night. Then to Istanbul tomorrow. I knew that this time would come. But it always seemed a long way off. Until last week. Then I was counting the last time that I would do something. My big hope is that I have coached or trained our branch leaders and YVs well enough that they will slide through the coming Sundays with no big mishap. The number of investigators -- potential and active -- who showed up today was heart-warming (six). I would be most interested to visit the branch in ten years and see what has happened. A lot of good things, I would wager.

I love you and pray for you all.

Grandpa Brown

P.S. We arrive home Tuesday afternoon Utah time.

#149 "Last Sunday in Izmir" (By Grandma)

Okay, at the risk of being trite "I can't believe the end has come".  Today I spoke in Sacrament Meeting in Izmir, next Sunday I'll speak in Sacrament meeting in Orem.  So many "lasts".  I took a photo of the items I've carried to church each week.  They include Turkish Hymn books, printed copies of hymns, cookies, napkins, other cookies, corn nuts, orange wedges, speaker (bose), marker pens, I-phone, Cell phone, Skittles, and talk.  Someone else will get to carry those items next week.  Dad carries all the sacrament supplies, 2 lap tops, the i-pad, his scriptures, donation envelopes, and anything else he can stuff in his bag.  

Saying goodby is never easy.  As you know this hasn't been the easiest assignment we've ever had.  But leaving is becoming a challenge.  People we've known are saying they will miss us, etc.  We, of course, will miss them.  We've received a few unexpected gifts.  I've given a few gifts away.  I've given crocheted hot pads to about 25 people during our stay, and cookies to a few.  Yes, I know how to crochet and I can make banana-nut cookies.   Because our branch is so small we have ties to all of the members in Izmir.  We've told people we will probably never return to Turkey, but, on second thought, maybe we will.  It would be nice to look into the life here in a couple of years after I've forgotten how much I hate loooooong plane rides.

The four elders who are in Izmir came to dinner today.  I had sloppy joes made with an IKEA turkey roast.  We haven't had beef our entire time here.  WE have felt really close to these elders and will miss them.  One of the elders has been here most of our time.  And most of them will return to BYU so we'll see them in the future.  Unfortunately all of the elders in the mission who had not been accepted to BYU prior to their missions just received rejection letters.   BYU isn't the only place to go to college, but they are all interested in following up on their Turkish language skills, and BYU is developing a Turkish language program.  

After dinner I printed our boarding passes for our trip to Istanbul tomorrow.  We stay in the mission home on Monday night and then go to the airport Tuesday morning at 3:30 AM for our 6:00 AM flight.  We will be with five other missionaries that night.  Seven of us fly away on Tuesday morning.... five from Turkey and two from Kazakhstan.  We are scheduled to arrive in SLC at 14:46 via Paris Flight #DL107  Please check with the airline for delays, etc.  We will not have a working cell-phone. 

Since we've been having Priesthood and RS we have had to rent another room in the hotel.  The men go to the other room.  We are top heavy with men.  Elders are not allowed to contact females, so new converts are almost always men.  We need Sisters here.  The RS lesson today was taught by a sister by Skype.  Those in the room included me, a YSA and an 11 year old girl.  Those on Skype included two German sisters, and an Iranian woman.  The lesson was given in English and translated into Turkish.  In the middle of our meeting three people walked into the room looking for the meeting.  It was two men and a woman.  I told the men where to go, and walked them to the room.  I motioned to the woman to stay in the room with the other two.  She sort of had a snarl on her face.  She didn't look pleased to be with us.  When I returned to the room she was sitting compliantly in our tiny circle, still scowling.  After a few minutes she asked me if she could smoke?  I said she couldn't smoke in the hotel, but she could go outside.  So she went outside.  We didn't see her the rest of the meeting.  Much later she returned, all smiles and told me she was going to come again, and had enjoyed meeting me.  She said all of this in understandable English.  She seemed like a different person.  I didn't tell her I would be gone next week.   So, I wonder if she will show up next week.    We won't be there...

We have stuff all over the apartment ready to throw into our suitcases.  We keep hiding stuff when we have company.  We expect the elders back again in about one hour.  So we'll try to finish everything up tomorrow morning.  

Dad is really OC.  Have you noticed that?  I didn't really notice that until we lived together.  Well, we've lived together for a loooooong time, but we were actually in different orbits.  We've had to share an orbit here.  He really is a fanatically clean person.  And he wants to leave everything in pristine condition for the couple that comes after us.  So, we'll wash the sheets as we are leaving, and change the bedding.  We have had a cleaning lady come occasionally, and he often finds some tiny microscopic flake of dirt that she missed.  Good thing he was pretty busy in his career to not be able to observe the large flakes of dirt in our home.  But he is good at finding shards of glass when something breaks.  And with marble floors things do break.

Well, I'm rambling.  I'm very excited to see ALL of you.


Sunday, March 12, 2017

#148 Sunday March 12, 2017 (by Grandma)

Dear Family (and friends)
This is my 2nd to last family email from Turkey.  My how the time has flown.  And the good thing about it is that I didn’t have any birthdays here, so I’m not any older than when I left home.  All of our grandchildren like to get older, but I assume the rest of you don’t. 

Today was an interesting day in church.  It was our Branch Conference and when the stats were read in your dad was read-in as Counselor to the MP Presidency, and BP of Izmir.  I had expected a change.  We leave in 9 days, right?  But when the MP stood up for his talk, he basically released Dad and asked one of his counselors and the priesthood leader to “fill-in” for a few weeks after we depart.  We know another couple is coming April 30, so we assume he will be BP.  The MP proceeded to praise your father for all of his service to the people in Turkey.  Your father really has made a difference in the lives of many.  So, I am proud of him.  He’s even been a pretty good husband through it all.  I’m not admitting what kind of wife I’ve been.

Today we had a very good group at church and I took extra refreshments.  There were about 5 investigators, and several new members.  I’m not sorry that I only have one more week to carry heavy bags of stuff to church, but I will miss the journey. 

We travelled by bus to a city in the South (Bodrum).  It is sort of the St George of Turkey.  It is warm, but differs from St George because it is a sea coast town.  Two sisters who are members live there with their children and non-member husbands.  We spent time with them.  Dad set them apart for RS callings.  They only join us by Skype, but they are now both serving in the RS.  One is a counselor and the other is the Secretary.  The counselor gave the RS lesson last week over Skype.  They always feed us even though I plead with them to not feed us.  We haven’t wanted our visits to be a burden.  They always act like it is a privilege to feed us.  I never feel that when I feed people.  We took the opportunity to visit an Underwater Museum/Castle while we were there.  It is on the edge of the sea and was a fortification for battles long ago.  Lots of shipwrecks are displayed there.
A view from Bodrum
he next day dad took the train to another distant city.  I didn’t go with him because the elders needed to use our apartment for skyping.  I was about to leave the apartment when I discovered my keys were missing.  Luckily I discovered this before I left the apartment.  If I hadn’t noticed it, I could have been locked out of the apartment for about 10 hours.  That would have been a very nice experience!  I have never found my keys, but I’ve had 3 sets of duplicates made and given each set of elders’ copies.  We need three keys to get into our apartment. 

We had the “opportunity” to do an inspection of the elders’ apartments.  We began our journey in a rainstorm.  We literally walked through rivers to get to one of the apartments.  Sidewalks are very narrow and cars park on them.  So we could only walk down the streets that were filled with rushing water.  We have no boots.  We even had umbrellas but they only pretended to keep us dry.  In fact one of them collapsed and was no good at all.  We were drenched.  The first apartment was neat and tidy, and we found only one toilet stain, a sticky refrigerator handle, and one dust bunny.  They have a beautiful view of the bay.  We got even more drenched travelling to the 2nd apartment which was across the bay.  But Dad found one dust elephant, so it was worth the trip.  I think our elders have pretty decent accommodations.

One clean elders apartment

It took 3 days for my shoes to dry out.  I even used my blow dryer on them.  Our clothes dried quicker than that.  After we arrived from the apartment checks, a friend from Ankara invited us to lunch.  So we put back on our soggy clothing and headed to a pizza restaurant.... a 20 minute walk in the rain.  The woman works for the Embassy and has interesting tales to tell.

We have been having “last” meetings with people.   I think lingering farewells are awkward.  But lots of things had to be worked out with our leaving, so people had to know.  I don’t like saying good-by because I’m sure we will never see many of these people again.  I doubt we will return to Turkey.  I wouldn’t mind coming here for a visit, but I’m old, and loooooong air travel is a challenge.  If they all lived in Nevada, then we might see them again.  Of course, we’ll probably see the elders and other couples again, but the local members may never come to the US.  I am glad that I can see some of them on FB.  It really is a good “tool”. 
A view from our visit to the south
We expect the elders in a few minutes to do Skype lessons.  This set of elders teach Iranians on Skype in Farsi.  Very talented elders.  And tomorrow we fly to Istanbul again, for a Zone Conference.  We’re trying to take a suitcase with us.  When we leave for good, we have to go to Istanbul and then the US… but on different days.  So we cannot check our luggage straight through.  I’m sure you are all concerned about that.

I understand our children have been working hard getting our house ready for us to return to.  I think some furniture has been moved around, and some manure put in the garden.  We can hardly wait to see our family members again!!!  But leaving Turkey will be hard.


#147 "Release" (By Grandpa)

Dear Grandchildren,

The week began with a lot of traveling. Monday, Grandma and I rode the early bus to Bodrum. Besides me setting apart the two sisters who live there for callings in the Relief Society, we went to the old castle which holds an "underwater museum." The underwater part refers to shipwrecks that have been recovered nearby from the bottom of the sea. I was surprised to see all of the pottery pieces still in excellent condition, including huge amphora jars. When pottery is recovered from archaeology digs on the surface of the dry ground, the pottery is often beaten into small fragments called sherds or shards. The next day I went off to Denizli to handle some fast offering matters. After we leave, the YVs will go there and give lessons when they pay visits.

This Sunday was my release date. I saw my last day as a branch president. But in our branch conference, I was also sustained as the second counselor in the mission presidency even though my time here is now very short. How short? Don’t ask. But it is just over a week. I began my day by meeting with the MP and my first counselor and the branch’s priesthood leader. During the meeting, the MP announced to the first counselor and the priesthood leader that they would be in charge of church meetings until the new couple arrive at the end of April. Sort of an acting branch presidency. During our Sacrament Meeting, the MP announced the same thing after he had released me and my counselors. Naturally, as soon as our two-hour block of meetings ended, the two brothers came right to the front of the room to talk to me and to learn what is what when it comes to our meetings. I invited a YV to help in translation with my Turkish- and Russian-speaking counselor. The YV assured the two of them that he and his companion had the assignment to bring the sacrament things for the meetings. And so forth. The two brothers seemed to be satisfied about what they needed to do as they go forward. I shall be back next Sunday, of course, to help out as needed.

It was also our branch conference. In a branch conference, the branch president always speaks. Even though I had been released only moments earlier, I gave a talk that I had put together earlier this morning. I was assisted by one of our Turkish sisters who has been accepted for graduate work at BYU next fall. I talked about the tiny beginnings in our first meetings and our gradual growth. The first meeting in the hotel room consisted of three persons — Grandma, a young investigator, and myself. That seed has grown to the point that today, for our Sacrament and other meetings, we had twenty-three persons in the room. I also mentioned that, in November 2015, Elder Holland had counseled that we must "start right and stay right" in our branches so that, when the Lord comes again, he will recognize our church units as his own. His words gave further guidance to Grandma and me about how to approach our assignment.

I love and esteem the people in our branch. They have been wonderful. No. I didn’t cry. But I saw one of our young women almost in tears as the MP spoke about our service in the branch. I was touched because she was touched. She has been one of the bricks in our small group, coming virtually every week and helping with translation tasks. She will be missed when she goes off to school in August.

As I noted above, we were 23 in the hotel room, with 13 joining by Skype. Those figures make a total of 36, the second highest total in our brief history with the branch. Of these numbers, six were investigators. I am amazed at the sheer faithfulness of the people who join us from afar through electronic means. Seeing their images on the laptop screen warms my heart. A lot. I shall miss them terribly.

We are sitting in our apartment listening to a pair of our YVs connect with and teach some Farsi speakers. The skills that these two young men possess are really remarkable. It is tough enough to learn Turkish. To add another language to their set of tools is going beyond what any mortal YV should be expected to master. I am in complete awe at what they do. I suspect that they would teach more people if the MP would permit it. He wants to keep the teaching pool at a reasonable size and not move the Farsi speakers, all refugees, at a high speed toward baptism. One of the big needs is to teach post-baptism lessons to a growing number of these people. Of course, they all have hopes that they will someday end up in North America. But current US policy stands against them. I was told earlier this week by the sister of a woman who was scheduled to go to the US in May or June with her husband that all has been stopped. I feel sad for her and for those who know her and live with the same hope of relocating.

I love you and pray for all of you.

Grandpa Brown

Sunday, March 5, 2017

#146 Sunday March 5, 2017 (By Grandma)

I just read Dad's letter to you.  Again, he has outdone me, so I have little to report.  Unless you want to know how many times I've fed the community cat.  Most animals around here do not have owners.  People put food out in front of their shops and all animals are free to indulge.  And now and then a cat enters a shop and pretends to belong.  Our neighborhood only has stray cats.  The stray dogs are mainly on the boardwalk where they bite passers-by.  I don't know who feeds them.

I carry a little packet of cat food in my coat pocket when I leave the apartment.  The name of it in Turkish is "Kitty Love".  So I know it is a gourmet cat food.  And "my" cat knows it is better than the bargain brand cat food that is placed in the community bowls.  My cat comes running and rubs against my leg when I emerge.  I usually pet it a bit, and then pour out a few bits of cat food.  Some of the other cats circle around, but my cat holds his/her position until the treats are gone.  If we open a tuna fish can, I save the "juice" for the cat.  And if I cook chicken I take the remnants to the cat.  But the cat prefers tuna remnants.  I will miss the cat.  I don't even have a name for it.  But it has been my best friend in the neighborhood.

My best shoe finally broke.  It is a canvas wide-toed skecher.  I have a sore big toe, so it has been a life-saver for me.  I took it to a shoe repair person, and he said he didn't repair such items.  I think what he meant was the shoe was too cheap to even worry about.  But I have big feet and cannot replace it here.  Turks have tiny feet.  So I found some superglue and glued the strap in place.  I'll see how long it lasts.  I've used super glue before, but I this time I was a bit careless, and it really does glue your fingers together.  

I know there is lot of news out there, but the only thing I remember is that Scott and Jill ran marathons and 1/2 marathons last week.  I'm amazed that they can do that.  And Scottie will be having a birthday this coming week.  He has been getting emails sent from our mission to him because people here assumed grandpa was scott.brown    Luckily Scottie realized that the notice about his plane tickets for March 21st were for grandpa and not for him.  
Dad baptized another man today in the Hotel Spa Pool.  We have been grateful to have this option.  We held our regular church services and then they could just go downstairs for the baptism.  We were denied permission for our baptisms when we first came, and had to go to the seashore.  Those were wonderful baptisms, but they would have been cold this time of the year.  We are grateful the hotel amended its policy.  We have given a B of M to the woman in charge of arrangements and gone to lunch with her a couple of times.  She has really been helpful to us.  It is actually a Marriott hotel, but goes by another name in Izmir.  
Well, I have to make some more fake rice krispy cookies to take to Bodrum tomorrow.  I'm getting to prefer cocoa puff "rice krispy" treats.  I've never seen any rice krispies here.  

I love you all,


#145 "Window Shades" (By Grandpa)

Dear Grandchildren,

Tuesday morning I walked to one of our front room windows and began to draw up the window shade, one that rolls up as I pull on a plastic chain. The mechanism did not work and, worse, had become detached from one of its moorings. I could not tell whether I was looking at a break and a needed replacement for a twenty-year-old device, or at a slight repair. Because I am not especially handy with my hands (no secret here) and because I know nothing about window screen pulleys, I feared the worst. I climbed onto a chair and tried to survey the damage. I shoved and pulled on a part of the roller. It didn’t move. I decided to stop playing around. I lowered the shade and left it in that condition. A couple of days later, a pair of YVs were in the apartment to give a lesson by Skype. I asked them to help me find a repairman.

We first went to an electrical shop where a young fellow has helped with three repairs in our apartment. With the YVs’ help, I asked where we could find a repairman. He didn’t know. But he knew of two window shade shops on a nearby street. We went to visit. The first owner had no clue where to find a person who could repair a rolling shade. We walked across the street. The second owner did not know of anyone but promised to come the next day to have a look. Instead, a fellow showed up with a tool box. Clearly, the second owner had found a repairman and asked him to come at the appointed time. He walked into the apartment, I showed him the problem, he climbed onto a chair, and popped a piece into its proper place. Voila! It worked as good as new. He climbed down and headed for our entry door, not asking for anything. The deed had taken less than two minutes. But I stopped him before he escaped and got him to agree to accept 20 Turkish Lira, about $12. He seemed to be happy. I was deliriously relieved. I don’t want to leave anything like that for our replacements to deal with.

Wednesday was our day to travel to Ayvalik, a town about two and a quarter hours north of here by bus. We met with a sister whom we have known for more than a year. She is one who has never told any family member of her affiliation with the Church. We enjoyed a nice fish lunch together. She has been a delight to meet on occasion. After closing her therapy practice five months ago, she is thinking of moving to Istanbul or Izmir and resuming her practice. If she does, she will surely have to bring her aging mother with her. In that situation, she may not be able to openly affiliate with the Church again. It would be tense.

Friday afternoon we flew to Istanbul where I went through a branch audit, Grandma interviewed the American wife of the branch president there, and I gave a fireside on the trek of Lehi and Sariah. Talk about packing a lot into a single day trip. There was a crowd of about 35 persons, including a less active fellow who was the guide to a BYU faculty group, of which I was a member, who came to Turkey twenty years ago. It was nice to remake acquaintance with Emin again. He surely looks older, as do I of course. In the fireside, I intended to convince the audience that the journey chronicled in the book of First Nephi fits into ancient Arabia and not into Joseph Smith’s world of Upstate New York. I surprised myself a bit about how passionate I am about this subject. My passionate sense evaporates as soon as the party of Lehi and Sariah board the boat and head for the New World. I am mainly an Old World person when it comes to topography and specific locations.

During the week, in the apartment Grandma and I hosted fifteen lessons that the YVs gave either in person or by Skype. Almost all by Skype. The number tied for the highest weekly total from the past few months. We are surely happy that the MP authorized the branch to purchase its own laptop, the instrument that all those Skype lessons connect through. For the first year, the YVs were using my personal laptop. And that meant that I had to find some other work station or another task to do. Even though for the Farsi lessons I don’t understand one word, except the initial greetings, I am glad that the lessons are across the room from me and not in my lap. I should add that the YVs do a tremendous job in their teaching. They enjoy and a major command of information and doctrine.

After almost boasting last week, I thought that our numbers would plunge this week and I would have to eat my words. Gratefully, it didn’t happen. Instead, thirty-one joined us for our services, twenty in the hotel and eleven via Skype. In fact, for the Relief Society lesson, the one who presented it was 120 miles away, talking to the sisters here by Skype. Further, the fellow who taught our priesthood lesson was baptized only seven weeks ago. He is a keeper and did a commendable job. He has introduced his good friend to the Church and he was baptized today. I did the honors. I worked and worked to memorize the baptismal prayer in Turkish. I was very tempted to go to my default English prayer. But I held to my resolve and, in the hotel pool, repeated it in Turkish. After the baptismal service, I interviewed him for the Aaronic Priesthood. We shall present his name next week and ordain him on the same day. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to see this branch gaining some priesthood members. Now we need a bunch more sisters who live nearby.

Next Sunday brings not only a branch conference but also my release as the branch president. To be honest, I worry about the branch during the six weeks that will pass until our replacements arrive. Not that branch members won't get along without us. They will. But when I set up the hotel room on Sunday mornings, for example, I take great care to put the sacrament table just so, and the rows of chairs just so, and the sacrament instruments just so. I try to maximize our small space for those of us who meet in it. If the rows of chairs are too close to the front, the space for speakers shrinks and competes with those who are sitting at the front of the room to conduct the meeting. If the rows of chairs are too close to the back of the room, there is precious little space for people to visit during our breaks as we partake of a few treats that Grandma always brings. And so forth. And so on. Our YVs usually arrive early for our branch presidency meetings. They are the people to coach. I just hope that they remember each week to bring things like the sacrament trays and white cloth. You know, the basics. I just need to step away graciously and let others do the needed deeds. I have done it before. I need to do it again. Any other micro managers out there when it comes to Sunday set up?

I love you and pray for all of you.

Grandpa Brown

Sunday, February 26, 2017

#144 Sunday February 26, 2017 (By Grandma)

I’m enclosing some photos this time.  One photo is of the two bags I carry to church each week.  They contain my i-phone, my cell phone, bose speaker, cookies, corn nuts, napkins, orange slices, apple slices, 15 Turkish hymn books, hymn posters, my purse,  and photo copies of the English hymns we’ll be singing.  Dad leaves earlier and carries an even heavier load with sacrament supplies, laptop, i-pad, and various other equipment like temple recommend books, tithing envelopes, and scriptures.  We walk with these items for about 15 minutes to the hotel where church services are held.

Another photo is of a birthday treat I made for the elders’ birthday.  One of the elders had a birthday this week and I wanted to do something for him.  But then I realized I hadn’t done anything for any of the elders on their birthdays.  So I made up four gift packets and called it a group birthday.  Sometimes the elders are remembered by their families and sometimes not.  I hoped that this would make up the difference.  The treat included a couple of pairs of socks for each elder.  Visitors are required to remove their shoes when they enter homes and even offices.  So holey socks really show off.  I’ve seen a few holes in our apartment.  The socks were hard to find.  They don’t sell them in department stores or shoe shops.  We had to hunt and hunt.

One photo is of cookies I baked for church….snicker doodles.  It took about 4 hours.  I have a small oven and what you see is four batches.  I used to worry that no one would show up for church.  Now I worry that I might not have enough cookies for everyone.  We always have treats after sacrament meeting and before the 2nd hour.  Once in awhile someone else will contribute to the snack. 

The last photo is of some of us in Ephesus.  We are actually standing around a baptism font in St John’s church.  It celebrates the burial place of John, the Apostle.  But we don’t think he was really buried there, because in LDS theology he still lives.  You can see a few MPs.

We received an email today from a counselor in our ward bishopric giving us instructions about our homecoming.  Luckily he told us we can relate some mission experiences and he gave us a time allotment.  I thanked him profusely but replied that we’d both need about an hour for our speeches.  So they can just plan to cancel Primary and SS that day.  I haven’t heard back from him. 

We enjoyed the visit of the Huntingtons yesterday.  They are a Humanitarian couple serving in Ankara.  Ray was a colleague of your father.  It was interesting to hear of the “work” in Ankara.  It is very different from our Branch.  It has a well-established Branch.  We toured Smyrna with them, took a ferry ride, had dinner yesterday, and talked and talked and talked.  As you know I crave someone to talk to.  Your dad listens politely, but I miss "girl" talk.  They spoke in our Branch today and flew back to Ankara.  The MP has the senior couples visiting the smaller branches now and then to offer support.  We’ve visited all of the branches except for the military branch.  That branch is on lock-down and cannot be visited.  But dad gives them a Skype lesson/fireside every other week.

I hope all of you have been well.  Evidently the flu that is hitting has been very serious.  It was what actually caused Joel’s father’s death.  One of my friends was very ill, but was told she couldn’t be hospitalized because she was too young.  She is about 60.  Several in our Orem ward have been ill.  I haven’t heard of any flu in Turkey.

While I’m writing this I hear Farsi in the background.  Our elders skype a number of Iranians and give them lessons.  They have had a number of baptisms, mainly in Ankara.  The elders come to our apartment to Skype.  They teach themselves Farsi.  I can’t imagine learning Turkish, and then also Farsi.  When the elders come they try to give 3-4 lessons while they are here.  And they have many more waiting in the background for lessons.  I gave them dinner today before they started teaching.  These elders are never invited to members’ homes.  We don’t really have any families in the area that they are assigned.  So, I feel for them.  They are good-natured young men and would benefit from a member’s meal now and then.  The other elders in our branch live closer to a couple of families, and they have invited them now and then.  But even they don’t get many invitations. 

This week I helped one of the Branch Presidents write his Branch History.  I’m supposed to be gathering all the histories in our Mission.  I knew this President would have a hard time writing his history and no one in his Branch speaks English.  So I interviewed him and wrote up his 2016 history.  Such things can be very challenging for the small branches in this mission.  Dad wrote up the history for our branch.  I have yet to receive the histories from other branches.  Perhaps they won’t be submitted before we return home. 

Dad is speaking in a fireside this week in Istanbul.  We’ll try to go and come in one day.  It should be a bit of a strain, but we don’t want to waste another day in travelling.  So we’ll catch a plane home at 11:15 PM.  I’ll interview the Istanbul's BP’s wife for an Oran History Interview.  I submit these interviews to the Church History library in SLC via dropbox.

There were two birthdays in our family this week…. Nashelle and Benson.  Karilynne’s oldest and Julianne’s youngest. I hope you saved us a piece of birthday cake.   I think the next birthday will be Scottie.  But I’m getting old, so if I forget any of you, please let me know.

I love you all,