Today is my mother’s 88th birthday. I think of her often with gratitude for the beautiful childhood I had and the gifts from her that bless my life each day. It is also the culmination of a week of memories that will warm our hearts forever.
Tyler and Katie and their children flew in on October 2. They rented a van at the airport, and we met them in Kansas City at the temple for a picnic. We watched the morning session of conference before leaving and caught most of the afternoon session on our drive home. We listened with questions and concerns and found insights and answers from every talk. It was a testimony builder for us. The Wilkins were able to stay with Elder and Sister Brown in the basement of the Hightree House. Dave and Deena have a cat that adopted them since arriving. They named him “Adam” and the kids loved him.
NOTE: Corrections and additions to the other “Adam” for those interested. He is still in custody, but although he has a long history of offenses, the report of outstanding warrants was incorrect. A mental evaluation has been requested as he still maintains that he must be here to fulfill prophecy. He was arrested after spending time in Sunway because his conversation was very inappropriate with the 15-year-old that works there, and she reported it. The reality is that he can’t be held forever and eventually they will have to release him, so additional chapters may be in the future.
Sunday, we all watched conference from our little Hobbit hutch home and then worked in a tour of Liberty Jail and the Independence Visitor’s Center around afternoon sessions. I never tire of touring the Liberty Jail. I gain something new from each visit and the Spirit there touches my heart.
Monday and Tuesday were business as usual for Darrel and I for the most part as the Wilkins spent those days in Nauvoo. We were grateful the weather was agreeable and that they had such a good experience there.
The sisters had a tour of each of the homes in preparation for home assignments that will be coming within the next few weeks. All are much bigger than our apartment at the 4-plex. Most have a dishwasher! I felt each had pluses and minuses long term, but living in any for a year will be a treat.
While Wilkins were away, circumstances that felt divinely assisted, led us to a beautiful, easily accessible pool for Leia’s baptism. It is just a few hundred yards from the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman and within walking distance of the Diahman Center where we planned to have the opening exercises. Steady droplets have filled the pool over time. The number of frogs and fish suggested it was snake and snapping turtle free! I’ve been concerned about the possible bacteria count in any water in Missouri, so I poured nearly a gallon of Clorox into it. According to my sources it only takes 2500 parts per million to disinfect water, but it didn’t turn out well for tiny fish. When Leia drew a picture of the pool she included a dead fish. Gratefully she did not record what happened to the poor little guy.
Wednesday was my 65th birthday! I’m grateful my Spirit feels much younger than my body. Many family and friends reached out that day and I appreciated and enjoy each one. We spent the day sharing the sites and stories of AOA with Katie and family. We were able to walk to many of our favorite places because the weather was cool and the humidity lower than usual. While Tyler took the two little ones to their “mission home” for a nap, Darrel and I took the others to Jamesport to play in the park and watch the Amish buggies clot-clop past. That evening we had a bonfire and hotdog roast at the “beach.” Some of the other missionaries joined us. It felt like a friend birthday party, which I don’t think I’ve had for many years. We stayed until after dark because everyone was having so much fun.
NOTE: My birthday was also the day work began on the new addition for the sister’s room at the work center. Currently there are 12 only computer stations. There will be fourteen needed in the spring when the seven new couples arrive, so they are building a twelve-foot addition.
Thursday we visited Far West, Haun’s Mill, Breckenridge, and Chillicothe. Grandpa and Grandma Wilkins found us during our lunch picnic, and it was so good to see them. They flew in for Leia’s baptism and there has been some concern about whether Grandma Wilkins would be able to make the trip because of current health challenges. Prayers were answered and she is a true trooper!
Katie and I went on to Richmond while the others headed back to AOA. The kids were done traveling, but Katie really wanted to see the Pioneer Cemetery, Three Witness Monument, David Whitmer grave, and the statue of Alexander Donavan in the city square. I have to admit we got a bit lost on the way home. I trusted that my GPS would take us back to Jameson, MO, but she thought we should go to Jamestown, Missouri instead. Fortunately, both Katie and I began to feel uncomfortable about our progress at the same time and make some much needed course corrections before we arrived in the small village. I have to admit we were beyond our mission boundaries and on our way to St. Louie before we realized what had happening in the dark. That gave us a couple of extra hours to visit, but made a rather short night for both of us.
There are not words to describe completely the images and feelings of Friday. Leia was baptized and confirmed in the heart of Adam-ondi-Ahman, and technology made it possible to ZOOM several family members in to participate from far away. Watching Grandpa Wilkins enter the pool as Grandpa Kenison lead Leia to the edge holding one hand until Grandpa Wilkins took the other was a symbolic, sacred moment. The steady droplets that fill the pond felt symbolic of how the good choices we make each day combine to provide a reservoir of faith and testimony that is deep enough to carry us through any of life’s challenges. The spirit of meeting, the baptism itself, and the confirmation on the bank of the pool were rich. A few tender tears of gratitude made their way down more than one person’s cheek. We felt love and support from both sides of the veil. We were richly blessed! Leia came out of the water with the expression of pure joy, even though one of the leaves floating on the surface clung to her hair. She may live her whole life and never met another person who was privileged to be baptized here. Although her baptism would have been just as binding anywhere, the memories of it being in this holy place will bless her life forever and ours as well.
The Wilkins flew out early Saturday morning, but our minds have returned again and again to the wonderful time we have shared together.
Our focus now switches to getting ready for our mentors to be released. Our hearts are pretty tender and occasionally emotions are close to the surface. We love each couple and wonder how things will go without them. We trust that with the Lord’s help we can rise to the circumstances and carry on. May this new week find all traveling the covenant path with the Spirit as a daily companion.
Elder and Sister Kenison (aka Darrel and Karen)