May 30, 2021
We started our morning today by joining our grandson Andrew Smith, as he spoke prior to leaving on his mission on June 14th. The sweet bonus was that Abby, his sister was the youth speaker. How grateful we are for technology and strong grandchildren who are lots of fun, yet whose foundation is solid and strong. Their older brother, Taylor, will return from his mission two days after Andrew begins a week of home MTC. After a brief reunion and a quick family photo, Andrew will then report to the Provo MTC to finish his pre-mission preparation. He’ll get a little taste of both experiences! My prayers have been— answered affirmatively.
We seem to be settling into a life here. We know where to shop for most things and can find our way around without Suri—unless we need something in Kansas City. We know where the car wash is, which is essential. Although some parts of our budget have decreased, car washing has become a category of its own. Missouri mud is memorable and the roads at AOA are dirt or gravel which equates to very dirty vehicles. I have someone to cut my hair and Darrel made a visit to a chiropractor this week.
I spend hours working in flower beds this week, either mine at the East Overlook, the one assigned here at the 4-plex, or assisting with the seven on Tower Hill. We all felt a push to have them ready for the Memorial Day weekend and the beginning of summer. We’ve had so much rain that I had mushrooms growing in my flower bed. They were actually quite beautiful.
I was thrilled when I realized I’ve indexed over 2000 names since arriving. Just for the record, the Sisters at AOA indexed or reviewed over 20,000 names in April 2021. It is Spirit-filled, satisfying work and occasionally fun and entertaining.
Darrel spent some time this week with the weed-eater and a water truck at Tower Hill. He spent one day on a mower, then helped plant trees, and put the roof on the Duplex. It was so wet on Thursday that everyone took the day off for personal projects and shopping.
Our adventure this week took us to the Romanesque styled “Conception Abbey” in Conception, MO. The founder, Abbot Frowin arrived with a group in 1873 from Switzerland to establish a monastery to serve the needs of the Irish and German settlers here. That work has grown to include a chapel, monastery, seminary, workshops, and a lot of housing, with a reservoir with fish and acres of beautiful gardens, lawns, and meadows. We definitely felt a spirit of peace, and tranquility there. It is an active seminary for training a new generation, but current students are out for the summer. The faithful Monks remain to care for the large campus and grounds.
The Abbey Church was beautiful, and the spirit there made even whispering seem out of place. It contains 24 beuronese murals painted by the Monks in past years. They depict various events in the Savior’s life, with a focus on the passion week. They are stunning and impressive.
The highlight of our visit was a “chance meeting” with one of the older Priests residing there. He is 88 and walks with a cane. He was warm and open, with an engaging smile and eyes that sparkled with light. He was dressed in regular clothes and was returning from the cemetery where he said he often goes to visit two of his friends buried there.
A BIT OF HISTORY: On June 10, 2002, Lloyd Robert Jeffress shot four monks at Conception Abbey. (The Benedictine monastery we visited today.) He managed to kill two of the monks before he turned the gun on himself.
At 8:40 a.m., Mr. Jeffress entered the twin-towered front of the basilica with a Ruger .22-caliber and a semi-automatic MAK-90 Sporter concealed in large boxes. (That info was included for the men and boys in the family.) In about eight minutes, the 71-year-old man shot and killed the Rev. Philip Schuster and Brother Damian Larson, and seriously wounded the Rev. Kenneth Reichert and the Rev. Norbert Schappler.
Kenneth Reichert was the man we spoke with during our visit! The friends he visits are the two who lost their lives in the shooting. His countenance didn’t change nor was there a hint of anger, animosity, or bitterness as he mentioned the events of that day, nor the lingering pain in his leg that requires him to use a cane. He was 69 at the time of the attack and was shot twice, but as he said, “through the grace of God I recovered.”
He spoke of his friends with deep fondness and a hope of a reunion someday. I shared our firm belief that they surely would see each other again. How I longed to tell this good Christian man that no mortal, no matter how saintly or revered, stands between us and the Savior. Christ is our personal mediator and advocate with the Father.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught, “Jesus is the Lord. He is God’s own Son who came into the world to ransom us from the temporal and spiritual death brought upon us by the Fall of Adam. Jesus has bought us with his blood. He is the resurrection and the life. He hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. (2 Tim. 1:10.) He is our Savior, our Redeemer, our Advocate with the Father. There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (1 Tim. 2:5.) (Oct. 1974 GC)
We spent some time in the cemetery near the Abbey, but needed to head back before evening prayer vespers service. We were a bit disappointed but may return to experience that.
We sponsored a scavenger hunt type competition for the other missionaries entitled “A DOZEN GRAVE TASKS FOR MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND.” The idea came to when I was feeling a bit sad knowing I would miss the traditions associated with Memorial Day and the people I love so much. The challenge invites those who participate to visit at least three cemeteries looking for headstones that fit different criteria. (Missouri has cemeteries everywhere!) A few grave tasks from the list include finding a headstone of someone born outside of the United States, of someone who lived to be more than ninety, of someone who served in the military, and of someone with an epitaph or the image of a lamb or angel. Each task equates to a number of points earned. The cemetery at Conception was a gold-mine for the challenge! We’ll let you know who wins the coveted gluten-free prices that will be awarded on Memorial Day. Lots of love and best wishes for a wonderful week!
Fun Facts Featuring Joe J. Christensen (GA Director at AOA for over a decade.)
- He was born in the unincorporated town of Banida, Idaho. It is small that it was never included in a census record and so population information is not available. A post office operated there from 1912-1959.
- Elder and Sister Christensen moved 27 times in response to a call to serve the Lord, at least once with less than a week’s notice.
- One of Elder Christensen’s lifetime quests was to be a “bestower of dignity” to all he met.
- The three things his children remember most about their dad are his powerful and unwavering testimony of Jesus Christ, his absolute love and adoration for their mother, and the fact that none had ever seen him lose his temper.
- There was a painting by Joe J. Christensen hanging in the Yellow House here at AOA entitled, Sunset at Adam-ondi-Ahman. It was recently given to a relative of his serving now as a missionary who will see that it gets to his wife and children.