Our post this week is a bit late, but it’s because we’ve had family here at AOA. As we were preparing for them to come, I found that the anticipation of their arrival made the preparation a joy. I have pondered how to describe how much we want our family to come and share this experience on site. I found myself thinking of Lehi standing at the Tree of Life anxious for his family to come and partake. After having Shellie and Karrie here with their husbands and children, we can relate to what Lehi was likely feeling.
Both families arrived on late Friday, July 15th. Shellie could only stay two days, and Karrie three. It was tough to decide what to show them. We finally settled on what we felt the grandchildren would remember fondly and enjoy.
Saturday was our AOA and close communities’ day. We enjoyed a hearty breakfast here at our tiny apartment and it worked better than imagined. The weather was cooler and drier than it has been, and we considered that a tender mercy. We had a family devotional to make certain everyone understood why this land is so sacred to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Then we packed into the two Rangers and enjoyed exploring every corner possible. We shared historical facts as we stopped in each spot. I’ve learned some fun human-interest stories from working on the AOA history that were fun to share as well.
No matter where we go, it seems that Heaven smiles on us with a little extra something that communicates His love in a personal way. That day it happened when we took them to the “beach”. It is huge, but somehow we circled up right by a leather back turtle laying eggs in the sand. She was gracious enough to move so we could inspect the hole she had dug and peek in at the small turtle eggs. It was a thrill to see that and it’s a detail our grandchildren will long remember. We also visited the squirrel cage jail in Gallatin and had ice cream at the Tiki Hut in Jamesport.
That afternoon and evening the boys went fishing while the girls filled our little blow-up pool and had a pool party. The men and boys had so much fun fishing in one of the rarely visited ponds that we had to hold supper for them. They caught bass, perch, and sun fish. (Andy also found a few chiggers, but gratefully, the others were spared.) The largest fish was over two pounds and was caught by Brett, Shellie’s husband.
Sunday we all attended church with the other missionaries at the Diahman Center. There is no place on earth where the sacrament is more reflective and spirit filled, realizing the Savior promised to “drink of the fruit of the vine with you on the earth…” That great sacrament meeting that will include the faithful of all ages will take place here, somewhere near where we partake each Sunday hoping to be holy enough to merit an invitation. (See D&C 27: 5-14)
Two of the 2020 missionaries spoke, and it was amazing. Let me just share one point that fascinated me.
“During the dark ages, while Europe was entrenched in filth and squalor, China was excelling in almost every intellectual area. While millions died in Europe from smallpox, China had developed and deployed a method to inoculate against the disease. Engineering, medicine, mathematics, transportation, warfare—China excelled in them all. They had a fleet of ships that literally sailed the world.
So why didn’t China discover the New World? Why didn’t they settle the Americas? Being so much more advanced than the Europeans, why didn’t they colonize the Western hemisphere, spreading Chinese people, language, and culture, including Oriental religions and philosophy, to this sphere of the world? What would have happened if China hadbeen the country to settle America? All evidence indicates that they should have. But that didn’t fit with the plan that God had in store for the future of this choice land…
America could have ended up very differently had God not lifted his hand to save our nation. One of those miracles was the miraculous way the new emperor of China reversed the spreading of China’s influence. The old emperor died in 1423 and the very first edict issued by his son, the new emperor, called for the end of the treasure ships which had explored around the world. All foreign emissaries of China were to return home. In 1525, an official edict called for the destruction of all oceangoing ships and the arrest of the merchants who might have sailed them. By 1551, it was a crime to go to sea in a multi-masted ship, even for trade. China turned completely inward, leaving the New World to the Christian Europeans, who would soon discover their own way across the ocean on a mission to colonize the Americas in the name of their God. This was truly a miracle!”
Sunday afternoon we visited Liberty Jail and the Independence. Missouri visitors center. Both provided a rich opportunity to feel the Spirit and connect with the early saints in a powerful way. Andy and Karrie had a set of adopted grandparents in North Carolina who flew into Kansas City to see them. Merek and Margaret are from Poland and are some of the finest people on earth. After those many years, it was clear they are more than friends, they are family. It was wonderful to see them and although they are not members, they joined us for tours at both locations which we felt was a blessing for all of us.
Brett and Shellie and their girls headed home Monday morning, so we had to carry on without them. All of them attended our morning prayer meetings with us. Darrel and the boys replaced the old worn-out sign at Old Yeller’s grave. Elder Dabb helped us design and burn in the old dog’s name and death date. It’s not a part of the AOA experience for most, but it’s a sweet story that I was pleased to have some grandchildren become a small part of.
We traveled that morninto a big park in Chillicothe and had a picnic lunch before the kids spend nearly three hours in a water part there. Merek and Margaret, the Shirley’s friends traveled over 90 miles one way to see them again.
That evening we had FHE with Truman and Debbie Pratt at their home in Cameron. Truman is the great-great-grandson of Parley P. Pratt who presented a fireside here in June. We were richly feed physically and spiritually. Truman is a master teacher who knows how to ask inspired questions to move the discussion. It gave me a chance to see how well Andy and Karrie have taught their children and feel the depth of some of their testimonies and gospel understanding. It was a grandparent’s payday!!!
We had breakfast ready here at the 4-plex so the Shirleys could get an early start for Kansas City on Tuesday. Andy’s sister traveled to meet them at a park there before they flew to Utah to visit our other children. I am so grateful that all who haven’t already seen Karrie and her family will be together this Friday at Neldon and Brenda’s home.
Since they have gone, their faces has been added to the many who’s paths have crossed this sacred place. It’s easy to picture us all together as I pass a few special locations. Those same areas often invite thoughts of others since the time of Adam whose travels brought them here, providing an invitation to be better for that experience.
All the AOA missionaries leave for Nauvoo early tomorrow morning. It is an annual trip for those who serve here. That will leave much to share on our next post on Sunday.
We love you all and know more surely than ever that God lives and loves us, and that the Savior will come. God keeps His promises. I see that frequently as I review those He made me as I was set apart as a missionary. Our faith grows like the corn in this sacred place. Enjoy your Pioneer Day Celebrations.