It’s been a wonderful week at Adam-ondi-Ahman. We celebrated our one and only Valentine’s Day here and it will always be among my favorites. The Elders each made a special gift for their wives. It was completely made of native wood pieces and could be compared to quilting with wood. Each was unique and the wives were charmed as they came to our prayer meeting carrying their treasured creations behind their backs with little boy grins. That afternoon the sisters gathered for a donut demo at our house as a special treat for the men, and then we prepared a lovely dinner that we enjoyed together at the Yellow House. Prior to the dinner, each couple had been asked to share a favorite “love song”. The evening concluded with us enjoying those songs while attempting to connect each song with the couple that submitted it. That brought both laughter and tears. Elder and Sister Bonnett joined us that evening and shared some thoughts on why our “golden years” should be the best years of our lives. (An electronic copy is available upon request by any in that category.) We also went to the Kansas City Temple as a group, which is always wonderful. I listened with Elder Schwitzer’s challenge in mind and it opened up some wonderful insights for me. It was thrilling.
I learned how to properly bind a quilt by hand and got it finished this week. I was pleased with the way it turned out. There was an offer to arm-wrestle for it among our girls that made me smile.
Darrel’s whole week was spent at the 4-plex getting apartments 1 and 4 ready to paint. The bathrooms are now complete with the rest of the painting to be completed this next week. After the new flooring is laid, the sisters are anxious to get in and finish up the preparation for the new couples arriving in April.
We had an AOA miracle this week! (Actually we have small miracles every day.:) The elders have been discussing improvement plans for Tower Hill for months. The goal being to open up the view and enhance the experience of those who visit. It has been a frequent topic of councils, and some work had been done on the lower road to open the view from the parking lot. The results were wonderful. An exact vision of how to accomplish that objective on Tower Hill was sketchy at best and there was more than a little hesitancy to dive in.
“Elder Schwitzer was here on February 7-10. He made some specific recommendations regarding some proposed changes at Tower Hill and left the Elders to make it happen. Little did we know that two days before the Schwitzer’s flew out, Dale and Julie Larsen, from Idaho, headed east toward Nauvoo. Dale is a master horticulturist and has been responsible for the grounds around one temple or another for over 30 years. He currently serves as a consultant on the committee for the Burley Idaho Temple. During his down months, arrangements were made for Dale to visit Nauvoo for a month and help with their trees.
Years ago, his wife, Julie visited Adam-ondi-Ahman and had a remarkable sacred experience here. Although Dale visited AOA as a youth, he had no real connection, yet his wife maintained a feeling that service at Adam-ondi-Ahman was in his future. They decided that AOA was somewhat on the route they had chosen to Nauvoo and felt they should stop by. Dale called before several days before they left and mentioned his desire to prune some trees while passing through to the office secretary. It was a week later before they got a call from the current director. With the Tower Hill project on center stage, Elder Dunford welcomed a visit from a man with Dale’s expertise and experience, even if only as a consultant. So Dale and Julie dropped in. They were only here for a day, but they stayed busy seeing the area, working, and forming a plan. They were due in Nauvoo, so their stay here was brief. After working in Nauvoo for a day or two, Dale felt the pull to return to Adam-ondi-Ahman over the weekend. The weather was frigid, but that dedicated couple began pruning trees where there was the least wind. Finally, it was communicated that we needed their help at Tower Hill. As Dale stood in the sub-freezing wind, a vision of what needed to take place there came to him. He and Julie braved the weather all day long as he began to shape the framework of what he saw. They spent another long cold day on Friday, pruning and removing brush and trees. What they created in those two days represented a work of many men. Tower Hill is now slightly visible from the parking lot, beaconing visitors to make their way towards what they can only glimpse occasionally until it comes into full view. Tower Hill itself has been opened up and the trail to Preacher will be a meandering, wider path.
We were fortunate to have Dale, Julie and a friend over for dinner last night. We loved their stories and their spirit. If he never serves here again, Dale has designed an experience that will bless visitors in the future with his faithful wife at his side. Clearly the Lord wanted Dale to be involved in refining the recommended changes on Tower Hill. The timing of their visit was a blessing and more than coincidence. It was a miracle.
For scripture study on Thursday, we were asked to come prepared to share something we’ve learned while serving that has changed us. What came to my mind was different from what others were sharing. I was worried it wasn’t worth sharing because it felt more like a confession than a testimony. My thoughts led me back to when we were called and when we arrived. I came with the expectation that we would be outclassed in every way because we’ve just raised our family in Levan and served mainly in the ward. I knew those serving here were had to be the best of the best and expected that they would be bordering on perfection. It wasn’t long until I realized that all of us are still painfully mortal. We are all struggling with weaknesses physically and spiritually. We all have limitations due to aging. I didn’t expect there would be some more difficult to serve with. In the past, if I felt friction with someone, it was pretty easy to simply avoid contact where possible. With our schedule and only 14 here right now, that is not possible. Here’s the lesson! As I’ve continued to rub shoulders, hear each other’s stories, listen to each other pray and teach, I’ve come to understand their hearts. Once that happened, the rest didn’t matter.
I’m not sure why that was such a revelation, as there’s an excellent article in the Liahona that reminds us that we’re all simply “practicing perfection.” Camille N. Johnson said, “We are practicing perfection to return to our heavenly home. And the Savior, whose grace makes eternal perfection possible, gives us opportunities to practice.”
The truth is we are all practicing. We practice on each other. We all learn at each other’s expense. Each we meet is an integral part of practicing the perfection we seek. Remembering that this pattern includes us all, it was easier to see others, regardless of their station in life, social or economic status, or past experiences—as fellow travelers. It’s been natural to be tolerant and forgiving. As I truly came to know each one through serving together with frequent association, I came to know their hearts and to truly love them.
Our granddaughter, Jessica Mitchell, who spoke today prior to leaving on her mission, explained that love has the capacity to change and open hearts. Loving people is the first step to missionary work. It is the first principle. As we love people with a desire to be more like the Savior, we begin to love them in ways that He loves them. We see them better as He does, and it is more natural to share His love and message of truth as He would. Connecting all those dots has changed me in a good way. I’m grateful for the opportunity to “practice perfection” in this sacred place with my wonderful companion and fellow missionaries who are doing the same.