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This blog is a journal of our assignment in Chicago, IL as missionaries for The Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We will be missionaries for twelve months starting in January 2014. It is a public blog so that our family and friends can share our experience with ease. The writings here are not intended to be a political, religious or social commentary. They are the memories, thoughts and "light bulb' moments we have as we serve. We welcome you the reader.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Letter # 12 Hit By A Car

April, 2014

My phone has become like an added appendage to my body. It is with me 24/7.  With technology as it is, I am available 24 hours a day seven days a week. Accident and illness are not on a clock. This is okay with me because as I've talked about before, I am lucky enough to be able to consecrate my time to service----100% of my time.  The phone rings and I answer "Hello, Sister Abbott". The missionary calling always says "Hello, how are you Sister Abbott?" Automatically I frequently say "Great, how are you.?" They always reply with "Fine" and then proceed to explain how they are not fine. The ailments are common and uncommon, complicated and simple in all the extremes. We plow forward doing our best to arrive at a solution that brings comfort and at least the hope of healing. 
This night, I answer the phone and the message is the kind you pray daily not to hear. "Sister Abbott, Elder D..... has been hit by a car."  My heart sinks at the same time it picks up pace, my stomach turns over and auto pilot kicks in. The broken heart and mind numbing emotion will come later. In this case, the injuries are not life threatening and the search for which hospital to go to begins. Chicago is huge with the good, the bad and the ugly in hospitals. The missionaries are spread out from the Wisconsin border down thru the northern third of Indiana. It takes us a full 45 minutes to identify the hospital of choice. In this case the missionary was lucky. He was wounded but he would recover. He did sustain multiple injuries that would send him home. He was within three weeks of the end of his two years so he would go home and not return.
When the trauma was over, I determined that spending precious time searching for a hospital would never be repeated. We would identify and locate hospitals by ward and stake for the entire mission. In the church we hear repeatedly the mantra of preparedness. It is a focus worth incorporating into every aspect of our lives. It makes our way smooth. It rescues us from unfortunate circumstance. It maximizes our time. It keeps us whole. It requires an investment of time and effort. This missionary was prepared-----he was wearing a helmet. In return for his preparation, in case of an accident, his function and possibly his life was spared. What could have been a fractured skull or permanent brain damage was only a concussion. We are grateful for tender mercies.

Letter # 11 Sunday School

March 15 , 2014

When I was growing up, we would walk up to the corner bus stop and catch the bus to go downtown. There we would transfer to the Cramer Ave bus and ride it to the stop closest to Preston Ave. From here we could walk down the street to a repurposed army barracks and go to church. After the army barracks I think we had church in the VFW Hall and after that an older home turned dancing school. Finally, with utmost time efficiency, we used the Seventh Day Adventist Church on Sunday after they had met on Saturday. Following much fund raising and sweat equity, we went to church in "our" new church which was a one room rectangle with some folding accordion doors to make classrooms for Sunday School. A year or so before I graduated from high school, a chapel was added to the rectangle. We finally had a real church.
For the past 47 years, We have attended church is lovely structures, tastefully decorated and attractively landscaped. They contain chapels, kitchens, classrooms, gym/cultural halls and a library. When we arrived in Chicago, we were assigned to attend the Lake Shore 1st ward. The address went into our GPS and off we went. We drove and drove until we reached the tall buildings of downtown Chicago. The neighborhood is charming with a variety of row houses and apartment buildings sitting just on the fringe of the downtown. We pulled up to the address and discovered that we would be attending church each Sunday in a school. Not only was it a school, but a school of the same era as my elementary school. I was right at home based on my history and location in time. The smell of the waxed wood floors, the writings on the blackboard, the student crafts hanging from the ceilings---all lovely.
Sticks and stones make a building. Heart and spirit make a church. I really don't feel any different at church in our school than I did in my recent chapels or my long ago barracks. Chris, our son in law shared an impression while visiting in Germany. "The biggest landmark there is a giant cathedral that is 800 years old. I felt like the cathedral was a sacred space.  When I see how much work and effort was made by so many people over hundreds of years, I can't help appreciating their faith and sacrifice". I love the faith and sacrifice evidenced by the many churches, old and new dotted around Chicago. I love the feelings of love and the warmth of the spirit that come to me in church. I'm grateful for the sticks and stones and the heart and spirit combined by faith to make our churches. I love my Sunday school.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Letter # 10 Where Am I and Who Is Using My Name?

March 1, 2014

When hurricane Andrew hit south Florida, it wiped the landscape clean of all trees, bushes, street signs and traffic signals. When we drove down the street to our house, or what was left of it, we couldn't find it. It was then that I learned how dependent we are on the familiar landmarks and orienting factors of our environment in grounding us---allowing us to recognize where we are.
When I am out and about, I see men in slim trousers and suit coats. The color is not limited to their ties. They have on things like rose colored trousers, blue coats and patterned orange ties. They scoop up their little boys with shoulder length hair and head down the street, walking home. I'm a little lost in both time and space. Am I in Paris, France? When did the era of dark business suits and coordinated ties leave us? Doesn't one buckle a child into the car seat and jump in the car to go home? Where am I? Familiarity is relative, I guess. This same man would be lost in Texas.
I love the city! I love the row houses, the intriguing apartments, the high rise buildings of glass and steel and old brick and stone. The people walking on the streets bring a fascinating energy to the city. I feel excitement when I come downtown! I'm in Chicago!

I love broccoli, cheese, beef filet, bacon, cantaloupe, avocados, fried corn, chicken, pasta, chocolate, tomatoes, green beans, apple sauce, sauerkraut, pork, eggs, spinach,
tex-mex, cabbage soup, and a plethora of other foods. Do you see pizza on the list? That is because I do not like pizza. Chicago is famous for pizza. There are many "must try" spots around town for pizza. One of those is a place called Lou Malnotti's. They make Chicago Deep Dish Pizza. This is a pizza at least 3 inches thick. If you think you are running in to pick up a quick pizza after work---forget it. It takes a half hour to cook. There are many choices but the one they call "The Lou" is a vegetarian pizza with fresh tomatoes, spinach and lots of cheese. When the new missionaries arrive in the mission, we all have dinner at the mission home and this pizza is what is served. A huge wedge is on the plate. How do you eat a huge wedge of pizza that you don't like? One bite at a time. First bite down. I eat the second and then the fifth and then the last bite. I scoop another large wedge onto my plate and begin again!  Who am I? I really don't know who this is, but she loves this Chicago Deep Dish Pizza!

I'm loving a lot of things about this mission!

Letter # 9 Making A Nest

February 8, 2014
As we close the door of our house on the cold and snow, I can't help wonder where the birds spend their days and nights in this dark winter time. Everyone needs a place to snuggle in and feel safe from the world. The first time we pulled up to the house that had been rented for us, we found Sister Crook shoveling the driveway and Elder Crook inside cranking up the heat and turning on the lights. These missionaries hail from Star Valley, Wyoming. As it turns out we have driven past their house over and over as we visited Chandra and her family in Rexburg. They have a dairy farm right on the main highway. In addition they have family connections in Flower Mound. We will work out of the mission office with them. Sister Crook is the mission secretary and Elder Crook handles the finances and apartments. As the Crooks gave us a tour of our new nest, we could see that there were a few twigs that would need adjustment and the addition of a few soft grasses before it would feel like ours.  To our surprise the kitchen already had some new soft grasses. Ian and Cristina had gotten a key to the house, consulted with Elise about our tastes, shopped at the store and left groceries, paper goods, cleaning supplies and treats in the kitchen for us. Once again, we felt the love of those supporting us. With every step the way has been smoothed for us. We feel safe from the world.

At the mission office, we find another set of senior missionaries, the Taggarts. Elder Taggart takes care of the I Pads, phones and cars. Sister Taggart is the referral secretary. Interestingly, there are approximately 400 people who refer themselves every month for visits from the missionaries. Sister Taggart determines which missionaries cover each address and sends them the information. The missionaries then follow up. The Taggarts also sold their home before they came out from Washington state. They will return to Utah to live near their children.

Dad's assignment will be to take over the apartments from Elder Crook. In addition, he will always be my companion as we need to tend to medical situations in the mission. Once again it becomes clear that there will be more to our service than a job description list. The six of us in the office are the functional support for the entire workings of the mission. nothing could really work without the investment of our time, talents and love. Love being the operative word. There could be no service here without the great love we feel for our young missionaries. The young missionaries depend upon us to gather and arrange the twigs and twines and feathers for their nest.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Letter # 8 Hello Chicago

February 1, 2014

We have a grandson serving as a missionary. The words I had spoken to him when he received his assignment came sliding back into my mind. God loves his children the same no matter where they live. And so with that remembrance we settled into the idea that we could love, serve and be His hands  in Chicago as well as anywhere else. It's a good thing because we arrived in the Windy City today. We opened our car doors to sub zero temperatures and white and grey and black piles of snow. The range of color indicative of how long those piles had been there. Chicago was in the midst of one of it's worst winters in history and now our Texas blood was here to join in. If I continue with details, it will degenerate into whining so suffice it to say we are freezing up here.
What is the mission nurse specialist? Well, a mission is a geographically designated area. In this case, the area contains approximately seven million people and 212 young missionaries. In round numbers, half are young men and half are young women. The mission nurse specialist administers and co-ordinates the health care of these 212 missionaries. As we were waiting for our report date, I was thrilled to realize that the inspirations and ideas that were coming to my mind had more to do with sharing love and comfort with these young missionaries than medical information. Love isn't love til you give it away.

Letter # 7 Bye, Bye Texas

January 26, 2014
About 3:30 am we arose, pulled our suitcases downstairs and took off for the airport via a van provided by the Missioary Training  Center. We are flying home to Texas to pick up our van and drive to our mission in Chicago. We ended up in Texas by surprise 14 years ago. Now we are leaving the place we had lived for longer than any other in our married life.  A plan was in place. Having sold our home in Texas and purchased a home on a lake in Michigan, we would spend our summers up North and our winters with our family in Texas. Now, as we pack up our van with our final load of belongings, our plan flys apart like the little pig's straw house.  As we are packing for our mission, our Texas family is packing for a move to Denver, CO.
We started this whole endeavor by moving forward one step at a time, Listening to the spirit and making our next move. This is what we will do a year from now as we conclude our mission. Listen for what our next step should be. In the meantime, we will be coming home to two storage units full of stuff and a hotel room. We will travel to Chicago on the well wishes of our Texas friends and our family.  Although we will miss all that is familiar, we are so filled with anticipation, excitement, and sense of mission that we drive away without tears.

Letter # 6 Medicine for a Week

January 20, 2014

MTC check.  Now for a week of medical training. We moved to the Marriot Suites in Provo and began a morning to  night training and orientation for our assignments as medical specialists in our missions. Some were nurses like me and some were doctors who would serve as area medical advisors covering several missions.  The details are not important here but the professionals who came in day after day to present unimaginable amounts of information on medicine, policy, insurance, record keeping etc. were amazing. They made hours of sitting and listening interesting and even fun. Of course it helped that we were all intimidated about our assignments and were grasping at any and all help to boost our confidence.  My favorite aspect of training was the emphasis on ministering as opposed to administering. Protocals and policies were based on legalities of course, but also on scripture and the spiritual well being of individuals as well as their physical well being.  We would be ministering to individuals not just running a medical clinic.  "Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual.......D&C 29:34.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Letter # 5 Letting It All Soak In

January 18, 2014
When our week at the MTC was accomplished----and I say accomplished because we felt like we had really done something by just surviving---we had to sit back and let the whole experience sink in. What had we gleaned from our time there? Kernals of remembrance pop up continually as we go thru our days, but for this moment, I want to remember this list of three things:

1)  Share the truth and it will be evident to those who are looking for it through the Spirit.
      When I was a young mother with children, but no idea how to parent them, I read vociferously on the subject. There were ideas and theories and studies and the experiences of other parents and on and on.  Questions of which way to turn and who to listen to arose with all the different voices.  As situations developed in our home, I would find that particular ideas from this myriad of reading would come to mind and I could apply them for good in a certain situation. These ideas I deemed eternal truths. Truth is non-negotiable, never changing, consistently positive, and always beneficial. When someone is seeking truth they will recognize it when they hear it. Our opportunity is to share. The opportunity to recognize and act belongs to the hearer.  This is significant to me because it makes my role as a missionary clear. I am not responsible for anything other than sharing the love of Jesus Christ with anyone in need. The Spirit will illuminate truth to the hearts and minds of those who seek.

2)  Supporting and serving those around us is doing what the Savior would do if he was here.
      As mature individuals in age and experience, life has afforded many positions of leadership and supervision and "being in charge" as it were. In the world, these kinds of roles are equated with desirable station, success, higher pay, recognition, etc. In fact we come to expect that this is our normal.  In the Lord's society, there is no hierarchy. Acting in the Savior's stead allows us to respond to need as it exists. Supporting and serving those around us is critical to the happiness and success of all. When we received our assignment for our mission, we had no idea exactly how to proceed. Within a few days, we began to receive emails, phone calls, airline tickets, etc. providing us with the support we needed to move forward. All of this was extended to us by others who were also serving as missionaries. Others who were dedicating their time to serving others. We would began to experience the joy and enjoyment of serving others without the encumberment of  "the world".

3)  But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. 1 Corinthians 7:7.  Sharing talents and strengths we possess fills the needs of those around us. Our perspective shifted to view our time of service as an opportunity to work the Lord's plan of community. He has provided everyone with gifts and talents. His purpose in this was to assure that as we as humans work together, every need can be satisfied----something like the cogs in a gear. We don't have to be all things to all people in all circumstances. It's not about us. It is about the sharing of many for the good of the individual. As individuals are served the community becomes whole.  Consequently, we don't have to worry as we embark on this mission of service. What ever we can do will be enough because there will always be others who are  strong where we are lacking. There will always be the Savior's grace to fill the gaps.